Review: M320 Ruby Red (2010)

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 with small porcelain pen standPelikan’s M300 was introduced in 1998 and has the distinction of being the youngest and smallest member of the Souverän family.  All told, there have been seven models of the M3xx series released over the past 17 years.  To date, the penultimate release in that line has been the M320 Ruby Red which debuted in 2010 and is the subject of this review.  While the M300 comes in the traditional green striped and black variants, the M320 is characterized by unique finishes that were first introduced in 2004.  In their order of release; there has been the Orange Marbled (2004), Jade Green (2007), Ruby Red (2010), and Pearl (2011).  These pens are diminutive, dwarfed by each and every one of their siblings in the other lines, including the M100/150 of the Classic series.   Consequently, this makes them well suited to an environment such as a purse or vest pocket.  Do not let their small size fool you as the M3xx line remain true Souveräns boasting all of the same furniture as well as Pelikan’s piston filling mechanism.  Whether or not this pen is for you will be a matter of personal preference and surely this pen’s size will be the biggest limiting factor to its appeal.  Read on below to find out about all of this pen’s qualities and quirks.


  1. Appearance & Design (9/10) – A beautiful red marbled pearlescent appearance

Putting the pen’s physical size aside for a moment, the M320 Ruby Red has an elegant look to it that stands on its own merits but also blends in very nicely when put next to the finishes of the other M320’s currently available.  The pen has a pearlescent appearance throughout the barrel and cap that is really eye-catching in good lighting.  If the finish appears familiar to you it may be because Pelikan’s M620 Madrid (2002) had a similar though not identical look.  Much truer to the M320, this ‘Ruby Red’ finish was  again employed in the special edition release of the M600 in 2012.  The M320 has all of the accoutrements of its larger counterparts including gold-plated furniture, double cap bands, two trim rings at the piston knob, and a single trim ring at the section.  The piston knob and section are black which provide a nice contrast with the barrel.  The cap top of my example features a painted one chick logo however this pen was released during the transition year when Pelikan transitioned to the gold-plated cap top on all of its Souverän models so you may find examples of both variants in the Ruby Red finish.  The barrel itself exhibits a nice translucency without crossing into the realm of being a true demonstrator.  This serves the purpose of allowing you to gauge the amount of ink remaining in the pen which is great for such a small pen as it will necessarily hold less ink.

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 with wooden Pelikan standPelikan Ruby Red M320 with Rhodia notebook

 


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10) – No complaints here

When it comes to the actual build quality of the Souverän pens, I generally can find very little to fault and the M320 is no exception to this rule.  These are precision made pens that clearly have a polished appearance.  The materials employed in making the barrel and cap are beautiful but also appear strong enough to easily hold up to the rigors of regular use.  While I wouldn’t want to drop the pen, it certainly doesn’t give a sense of fragility when in the hand despite its small size.  There are no mould lines or any other remnants of the production process visible.  The piston knob seats securely against the barrel and the piston has a very smooth and confident travel.  The only thing that I would note here is actually not specific to the M320 as it is a potential issue pertaining to all of the Souveräns.  Pelikan has placed a gold-plated trim ring at the section and has done so for many years.  This does give the pen a very nice and upscale appearance but, like anything else, time will take its toll.  If you are not careful (and sometimes even if you are) wear and the continual exposure to ink can cause the trim ring to corrode, degrading the look of the pen.  This is not a Pelikan-centric issue nor is it a major problem or reason not to invest in a Souverän pen.  It is simply a potential issue that one has to keep in mind as it can occur.  I try to avoid this myself by keeping the trim ring free of ink as much as is practical.

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 with Rhodia notebook

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (7/10) – Tiny, tiny, tiny

So far, the M320 really has been without fault and sometimes great things come in small packages.  One of the beauties of the Souverän line lies in the fact that there is a pen that will fit virtually anybody.  If small pens are your preference, they don’t come much smaller than this but if you have very large hands or prefer a bigger, heftier pen, the M320 won’t likely suit you very well.  It is miniature, closer in size to a golf pencil (3.5″) than any of its fountain pen siblings.  That said, I have medium to large hands and do not find it uncomfortable to use provided that it is posted.  Once posted, the size is more than acceptable but this could be an issue if you prefer to not post your pens.  I often times marvel that something this small is still a very capable fountain pen rather than a pencil or slim ballpoint.  In terms of dimensions, the M320 is 4.33 inches capped, 5.12 inches posted, with a diameter of 0.39 inches.  It weighs in at a feathery 0.37 ounces and has an ink capacity of just 0.65 mL.  My preferred pen is in the range of the M200/400 size so this does feel a bit insubstantial in the hand.  You can see in the photo below how it stacks up to the other pens in the Classic and Souverän lines.

Pelikan M150 Black-Burgundy, M200 Café Crème, M320 Ruby Red, M400 Red Striped, M600 Green Striped, M800 Tortoiseshell Brown

Left to right (all post-1997 production): M150 Black-Burgundy, M200 Café Crème, M320 Ruby Red, M400 Red Striped, M600 Green Striped, M800 Tortoiseshell Brown

 


  1. Nib & Performance (7/10) – A nice writer but limited nib swapping options

The nib on the M320 is a 14C-585 two toned gold nib.  It bears the traditional logo along with decorative engraving.  The nib itself is quite small and generally firm without significant line variation.  As is the modern trend in Pelikan pens, there is a fair amount of tipping material so the nib would lend itself to customization if you choose to go that route.  Out of the box, the nib does its job but lacks any real character and will not provide any flourish to your writing.  While this is no fault of the nib as it functions as designed, it does make one nostalgic for Pelikan’s vintage nibs that are so highly regarded.  My nib is designated as a medium and actually does approximate what I would consider a medium line.  The feed and nib work nicely together and I have had no issues with ink flow or reliability.  The pen always starts when asked to but I do find that if it has been put away for a few days, it takes just a second of coaxing to start, something that I have not experienced with most other Pelikans.  My final thought here has to do with an issue that handicaps the M3xx series to some extent.  Like most other Pelikans, the M3xx series has a user removable nib which is great for maintenance/repairs.  What is not great is that because of its size, these nibs aren’t swappable with nibs from other members of the Souverän line and vice versa.  Any M3xx nib will fit any pen of the same designation but that is about the extent of the compatibility.  This is not what I would consider a deal breaker but it is a limitation not found on many of the other pens in the series.

Pelikan M200 Gold plated SS, M320 14C, M400 14C, M600 14C, and M800 18C nibs

Nibs from left to right: M200 Gold plated SS, M320 14C, M400 14C, M600 14C, M800 18C

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 14C-585 nib

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (8/10) – Pelikan’s reliable piston but a small ink capacity

I’ll keep this section of the review brief as there really isn’t much to say.  The M320 boasts the same precision piston mechanism that Pelikan is famous for and it works just as smoothly and reliably despite its miniature size.  The piston knob seats securely against the barrel when the piston is retracted and has a solid feel when the piston is engaged.  The loss of points in this section is mostly for this model’s limited ink capacity.  At only 0.65 mL, it falls just shy of the capacity of a standard international converter.  If you do a lot of writing, you likely will be refilling a fair bit so you wouldn’t want to be too far away from an ink supply with the M320.  This small reservoir is likely better suited to occasional note taking and casual writing rather than anything more intensive and ink consuming.

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 


  1. Cost & Value (7/10) – Small in size but big in price

Pelikan Ruby Red M320 cap topThe M320 can be found on the market ranging from $220 to $350 depending on the finish and prices will vary between vendors.  Since these finishes are largely discontinued, you will be limited to left over dealer stock as well as examples found on the used market.  Even used, I have found that these pens retain much of their original value.  These pens are somewhat cheaper than their larger counterparts but are by no means inexpensive.  For similar or just a little more money, you can find an M400 that is of a more standard size with a significantly greater ink capacity as well as a nib assembly that has many more options for swapping.  As far as I’m concerned, that is a serious impact to the value of the M320 but I realize that this perception is very subjective and will vary from individual to individual.  These are still great pens that are wholly reliable and available in finishes that are unique and attractive.  If they appeal to you and you can afford it, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase one.

 

 

Conclusion – A beautifully styled pen that fills an interesting niche in Pelikan’s line-up

  • M320 Ruby Red: 48/60 or 80%

Then M320 Ruby Red was unique in Pelikan’s line-up until the release of the M600 Ruby Red two years later.  That said, this is still a standout pen in Pelikan’s Souverän range. It fills an interesting niche with its small size and I’m sure that is something that appeals to users with a preference for small pens.  The unique finishes of M320 line will also appeal to more dedicated collectors.  I personally find the pen to be comfortable, easily portable, and completely reliable.  What I’m left wanting is a broader range of options for nib swapping as well as a more robust ink capacity.  I’m pretty flexible and can comfortably use any pen along Pelikan’s range but I understand that this is not the case with everyone.  The small, light weight nature of the pen makes it very nimble and well suited to jotting notes and other quick, brief writing tasks.  That is the major purpose the pen serves for me.  For more extensive writing tasks such as correspondence, I would look towards one of its bigger brothers.  Still, every time I pull the M320 Ruby Red out, it puts a smile on my face and always fills me with just a little incredulity that such a quality fountain pen can come in such a small package.

M3xx-Barrels

M3xx releases left to right: M300 Green Striped (’98), M300 Black (’98), M350 Black (’98), M320 Orange Marbled (’04), M320 Jade Green (’07), M320 Ruby Red (’10), M320 Pearl (’11)

 

 

A Look At The Pelikan M320 Ruby Red
Pelikan M320 Ruby Red Writing Sample

 

*The pen utilized for this review is my own from my personal collection and therefore the opinions expressed are also mine and free of any undue influence.

5 responses

  1. Pingback: Announcement: The Souverän M3xx Now in The Aviary « The Pelikan's Perch

  2. As a less-experienced Pelikan collector (OK, I only have 3 birds in my flock), I just became aware of this gorgeous little pen when I came across this review today. I have small hands and I often target miniature fountain pens in my collecting, so this one is a definite grail pen for me. I think the red is beautiful, and that’s only by looking at the photos. I can just imagine what it looks like in person. I will definitely be on the lookout for this pen in my perusal of used Pelikans.

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  3. I just bought a brand-new Ruby Red M320 and I couldn’t be happier with a pen. Now, I must preface my totally subjective remarks by saying I have very small hands and I love miniature anything, especially mini fountain pens. But when I ordered it, I had no idea it was such a teeny-tiny, adorable slip of a pen! I opened the box and was totally floored by how cute it looked, lying there in its full-size Pelikan container. At the same time, the classic beauty of this pen took my breath away.

    The finish on this pen is GORGEOUS. While the pictures in this article are very good, even they can’t totally do it justice. When I hold the pen up to the light, the pinkish flakes in its depths sparkle and shimmer in layers. It gives the rich, beautiful, ruby-red resin real depth.

    While writing with this pen over the last few days, I have frequently sat with it open for as much as five minutes at a time. Every time, as soon as I put nib to paper, it started right up without hesitation. This diminutive pen performs every bit as well as my other Pelikans. I had my M320 reground to a stub by the seller, and I am very happy with the results. The nib has a sweet little spring to it that adds flair to my writing. When posted, it will be plenty long for most writers. For those with very large hands, it may be a little too slim. That will depend on individual preferences.

    As for the amount of ink it can hold, it’s about what you would expect for such a tiny pen. However, it didn’t run out so often that it became irritating. And besides, when are we really so far from a bottle of ink that we can’t refill a pen on demand? If I plan to take it away from home, it is a very simple matter to carry some ink in a sample vial, if I really think I’ll be running out. I’ve done some serious writing with it over the past few days, and it’s taken several hours to run dry each time.

    I guess you can tell I’m a little biased and I absolutely love this pen. It was not an inexpensive pen; yet, I am so happy with it, I am considering buying the Pearl M320. That’s not so unreasonable when you consider that my collection has lots of minis in it. The Ruby Red M320 is the most classically beautiful and adorable pen I own. I am finding every excuse to write with it. Actually, who needs an excuse, anyway?

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    • I’m glad to year that you like your M320 so well. It sounds like the perfect pen for you. I have admired many of the M320 finishes but they are just a tad too small for me. Thanks for your comments and enjoy your new pen!

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