A few weeks back I posted about my experience at the Montblanc boutique in Sydney where I has previously dropped off my Montblanc Meisterstuck 146 in Bordeaux for repair. Well, the pen is now safely back in my hands and I’ve used it for a couple of weeks so it is time to write and rate the overall experience.
Originally I made the trek to my nearest Montblanc boutique because my pen (‘the bordeaux‘) had a few issues to rectify. This extended to the piston being quite seized up and needing a clean / re-lube, and the nib skipping more than your favourite well used cassette tape from the 80’s. I wrote about my rather lackluster experience in the boutique as I hadn’t come across any reviews of the service experience in any detail, especially in a smaller market like Australia. I am pleased to say that the experience improved somewhat, albeit with a few misgivings.
When I dropped my pen off I was given a Montblanc service card with a case number written in a gorgeous font with Montblanc’s Irish Green, a nice touch. I was told the pen would be mailed to the repair centre in Australia (I assumed Melbourne) and I should hear back about the repair within a week or two. The original visit was on March 11 2016. True to their word on 15 March I received a text message on my phone. Great I thought, that was a quick assessment.
Right, so it wasn’t assessed then but at least it had made it in one piece! From there I didn’t hear anything until I received an email on 24 March with quote and estimate attached. A copy of the estimate I received is below:
Reading through the quote there were immediately a few things I noticed. First and foremost, the initial assessment I received from the saleswoman was incorrect. To that end I was pleased as I new the piston was not operating properly. The parts listed in the estimate seemed comprehensive and reasonable. It appears that basic service like this with no replacement of any nib, trim or otherwise constitutes a ‘Service Level 1’. I’ve read a bit on these service levels and know that it is Montblanc’s standardised repair categorisation to help simplify the process. For example, whether you just need a nib adjustment, or the piston re-lubed it will cost you the same regardless which one you need or if you need both like I did. I haven’t heard about the price for a ‘Service Level 2’ and ‘Service Level 3’ but know it is roughly from $200 an up.
The second thing I noticed was that $115 for these services seemed a little overpriced for what is a simple disassembly of the nib unit and piston. I figured that I was along for the ride anyways and so communicated my acceptance to proceed with the work. I do appreciate that they quote and check with you first rather than just performing the work without asking. There is by the way, a postage and handling charge to get it to this point if you choose not to go ahead with the repair. The saleswoman quoted that it was around $50.
Fast forward a week after my email reply and I receive another text message form Montblanc informing that the services were complete and ready to be dispatched – hooray!
Within a day I then received a phone call from the boutique to organise a time to come in and test/inspect the pen. Whilst on the phone, the saleswoman stressed that she wanted me to try the nib to ensure I was happy with the way it wrote so to allow a few minutes for this; now you’re speaking my language I thought.
The next day I fronted up to collect my pen, excitement building to once again have the bordeaux on my desk and writing. Once more I pushed open the heavy glass doors at the boutique and was welcomed (and relieved of my door pushing) by the doorman. Curious, maybe he was on his lunch break the last time I visited. I was greeted shortly thereafter and asked from my service reference card before being ushered to the writing desk counter to take a seat. I couldn’t help by walk around the store to check out some pens on display whilst waiting to have the bordeaux retrieved. ‘Self control, self control, self control’I chanted in my head as I gazed at some older writers edition pens. Luckily, it didn’t take long to retrieve the pen and I sat down for an inspection.
“Can I just say that I LOVE your pen. I even asked the service centre if they had any others in that colour and they said that the burgundy had been out of production for some time” said the salewoman. ‘Ah’ I thought, ‘some flattery before we begin’. “Thank you, and yes I like it too but unfortunately it’s not for sale”, I replied. An amused chuckle and we began to look at the pen. The bordeaux was presented to me and the saleswoman began to read through the items on the service receipt, again stressing that I needed to try it out. After selecting Royal Blue ink, I was handed the pen and away I went. As expected, the nib was competently tuned and it wrote a reasonable line. It certainly wasn’t to the quality and precision a Richard Binder tuned nib would have (I have a couple to compare) but it was decent and passable. I felt the nib could have been made ever so slightly wetter but I did not think it would be worth sending back and waiting another couple of weeks for. Similarly, I could see the polishing job was completed and it had given the bordeaux some of it’s red glow back. The piston felt very smooth to operate, like new in fact, and I was extremely impressed with this – hats off to Montblanc on that.
I confirmed that I was happy with the pen and also purchased a bottle of ink ($30 AUD) at the same time. Once the saleswoman returned with my now cleaned out pen, I mentioned inspecting the writers editions on display and she described the ‘new’ Tolstoy pen, inquiring if I would care to take a look. ‘Of course’ I replied, and she proceeded to open a pen from its packaging and talk me through what all of the elements on the pen represented. Some where a little vague and inaccurate versus the description on the website (you see, us pen geeks know our stuff before we actually we hold a pen), again probably adequate for the average Joe, but not so much for stylophiles. An interesting pen no doubt, but a little too gaudy for me. I was getting ready to leave and thanked the saleswoman for showing me the pen when something interesting happened.
“I’m not sure if you know, but the writers edition for this year is being released soon, it’s William Shakespeare. I can show you some photos and a description if you’d like but you can’t take pictures” she said. And there it was, my pen geekism kicked into full gear. I immediately thought about some of the commotion on the online pen forums about this exact topic, and laughed at how stupid it sounded when it was just offered unprompted to me. “Absolutely”I replied, and a thick black folder was put onto the table. We began to flip through the computer generated photo’s of upcoming products, complete with a description of the materials used and the retail price. We covered the upcoming fountain pens including the William Shakespeare, Peggy Guggenheim, Miles Davies (very cool by the way), and Rouge et Noir. The later of which I knew at first sight that I must own one, or two. A great teaser nonetheless and an obvious attempt to build a relationship with a customer, good job. After concluding the upcoming pen discussion I thanked the saleswoman and was on my merry way with my beautiful bordeaux and a one year guarantee on the repairs.
So there you have it, $115, three weeks and good as new 146 Bordeaux. All in all I think the service experience was adequate. At most points I felt informed about the progress of the repairs and a good outcome was achieved despite some concerning items when I dropped off the pen. The lack of knowledge by the boutique staff was evident however throughout the entire process, let’s not forget I was originally told that the piston operation was fine and ended up with a piston service – go figure. Nonetheless, if it is just nib work you are after I would highly recommend sending your pen to an independent repairer (google ‘nibmeister’ and you should get some handy references). For all other work, you can consider the MB service if you are comfortable with the price.
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