Grail Pen Review (Part Two) – Montblanc Heritage 1912 Fountain Pen

Recently, I posted part one of a review of my grail pen; the Montblanc Heritage 1912 Fountain Pen.

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Montblanc Heritage 1912 Fountain Pen
In part one, I covered the story behind the pen along with the positives. I promised to go into further detail in this review and in particular for part two, to wipe off the gloss and shade my eyes from the bright lights of a grail pen.

Without further ado, let’s jump straight into part two of the review.

What Breaks It

Design flaw, barrel scratches. A commonly reported fault with this pen is the caps tendency to scratch the barrel as it makes its final rotation to secure the cap. Apparently this comes after regular use over a period of months and is caused by the metal ring inside the cap contacting the barrel. There has been conjecture over the inter-web (how uncommon!) over whether Montblanc addressed this design flaw in later production models up until its cessation of production of the Heritage 1912. Well, I can clarify that my later manufactured model 1912 has, after about a months use, shown all the signs of having barrel scratches as has been reported. You can see in the photo below (if you squint hard enough) that a thin ring is beginning to form around the barrel where the end of the cap finishes.   

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About halfway down you can see the barrel scratches begin to appear on the Montblanc Heritage 1912 Fountain Pen
Some have sent their pen away to Hamburg via Montblanc to have this issue rectified, only to have it returned with a note stating that this was normal wear and tear. I guess it’s up to you to be the judge of this, but in my opinion its a bit of an issue that your premium writing instrument scratches itself over time whilst a $100 pen does nothing of the kind.

Let’s put it in perspective though, this isn’t the only Montblanc to do this. Check out my Meisterstuck No.149 which has managed to scratch itself in a similar fashion over time pictured below. Perhaps we need to be a little less precious of our precious resin?

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Meisterstuck 149 with dreaded barrel scratches
Questionable value. Looking at the pen objectively, one has to question the price tag asked. If you walked into a boutique here in Australia, you would be paying the $1,335 RRP without a doubt as Montblanc has a strict ‘no discount’ policy to protect its brand value. That is asking quite a bit for what the pen is, with most competitors such as Pelikan, Visconti and Parker offering quite strong offerings in this price bracket, and usually with an interesting take on materials, craftsmanship and restricted numbers. As a benchmark, you can pick up the Pelikan M800 Burnt Orange / Grand Palace special editions for circa $900 AUD from reputable sellers; a huge $435 gap. It’s clear that Montblanc is pushing the envelope here with the set price using the credentials of history and filling system as an artificial step up on their price ladder. The Hertiage 1912 was a regular production pen when it was launched in 2013, and wasn’t a limited edition or numbered pen like it’s writers edition and great characters series. Look, the limited edition thing is artificial value anyway and simply appeals to collectors but I can’t help but wonder if the cancellation of this line meant the pen was not selling as well as it could have been. All in all, if the pens sleek lines strike an emotional connection with you the pen is high priced but attainable. If you are at all dubious as to the value equation, this pen likely isn’t for you as there is way too much competition at this price point.

Stiff Clip.  Another small niggle of mine with this pen relates to the function of the clip. The clip itself is rather stiff overall, leading it to have a very tight and secure grip on anything you choose to clip it too. It is however, too rigid to be completely practical. When considered in the context of the length of this pen, the process of clipping is a little bit awkward.  I feared on many occasions that wrestling to get my nail underneath the clip would mean that I would fumble and drop the pen. With a basic cotton button shirt, the clips need serious encouragement to open wide enough to accept the material and serve it’s purpose. Once it is on, probably the only the thing that would be able to knock it from the shirts grip would be tearing down Main Street during the zombie apocolypse. Even then I would be surprised if it didn’t hold on. As that isn’t all that likely, I’d prefer the clip to be a little more forgiving.

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Nice looking but super stiff and impractical clip
No ink window. My final and somewhat smaller niggle relates to the lack of an ink window. The smaller capacity of this pen as compared to a Meisterstuck Le Grand No.146 means that you live in the hope that your pen is not going to run out of ink, particularly with the larger nib sizes as my Broad on mine. The juicy thick and wet line laid down is amazing in itself but I find that I can write a few pages before it runs out of ink. Not earth shattering or deal breaking, but the need to fill the pen often if used regularly could have been avoided with a simple ink view window. Perhaps it was a design decision to stay true to the origins of the safety fillers eye dropper system, and if so it could be a missed opportunity to market it that way.

Overall
There were two questions I posed at the start of this review, one personal and one applicable to anyone considering purchasing this pen.

1. Was I going to be overwhelmed, underwhelmed or somewhere in between?
This one is easy. I am overwhelmed by this pen in how much it does actually live up to my expectations. Sure there are some design faults and a questionable value proposition, but all in all, this pen makes me want to pick it up sit down with a cup of coffee and just write for hours. It is that good. I wouldn’t say it is the pen to end all pens but the history mixed with the modern functionality is a winner for me and it will be a pen I keep for some time to come.

2. Does Montblanc deliver a $1,300 masterstroke or master-fail?
Not so easy. Value is of course in the eye of the beholder. If you are really honest with yourself, it’s a plastic pen with some nice trimmings, a great nib and an innovative filling system. If that makes you want to shell out ~$1,300 AUD then more power to you. It’s certainly not a ‘fail’ or some cash grab in my opinion (as far as luxury writing instruments go anyway). Montblanc should be given some credit for pushing the envelope, sticking to their design brief and manufacturing an item to the highest quality. It’s a special pen anyway you look at it, and if you can appreciate the design and history then go for it. If you are more so interested in the retractable nib then I would suggest you consider a cheaper Boheme or even a Pilot Vanishing Point and pocket some extra coin.

There, brutally honest!

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My grail pen and one I will be using for a long time!
Attached are some photo’s of the pen including a size comparison and writing sample (ink is Iroshizuku Kon-Peki) to help you decide.

Cheers!
Manllectables

Like the review? Thoughts, feedback, suggestions? Comment below.

 

7 comments

  1. I can’t help but wonder if that marking of the barrel is a conscious decision by MB to ensure that anyone who uses the pen cannot then get as much of a resale dollar out of it as a “proper” collector who never does anything with the pen but admire it through the two-inch-thick Lucite viewport in the pen vault. Conversely, it may be an effort to be entirely true to the vintage concept; I’ve got an early ’20s Sheaffer 8C which has a substantial cap/barrel interface mark below its threads.

    1. I love a good conspiracy theory! Interesting points. I would venture that perhaps having the mark on the barrel might also just encourage the pen user to consider picking up other MB’s to compensate.

  2. I can’t help but wonder if that marking of the barrel is a conscious decision by MB to ensure that anyone who uses the pen cannot then get as much of a resale dollar out of it as a “proper” collector who never does anything with the pen but admire it through the two-inch-thick Lucite viewport in the pen vault. Conversely, it may be an effort to be entirely true to the vintage concept; I’ve got an early ’20s Sheaffer 8C which has a substantial cap/barrel interface mark below its threads.

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