Review: M120N Green/Black (2016)

Pelikan M120N Fountain PenPelikan’s announcement of the M120N in January came as somewhat of a surprise.  The retro release marked the revival of a popular 1950’s school pen, the predecessor of the Pelikano.  Like the original that debuted in 1955, this version keeps the same green-black color scheme and gold-plated stainless steel nib but comes in a larger size and with the added flourish of a unique nib engraving.  What was even more surprising than the pen itself was the price tag attached to it.  Still, these seem to have found their target audience and I have heard anecdotes that sales have been good.  Pelikan expected to very quickly sell out of this special edition release.  I couldn’t resist picking one of these up and after thoroughly putting the pen through its paces, I felt that a review was in order.  Read on to see how this model stacks up to the original 120 from over 60 years ago.

 

  1. Appearance & Design (9/10) – Pelikan’s classic color scheme re-incarnated

Size aside (as discussed below), the M120N is a faithful recreation of the original.  It boasts a green barrel, green ink view window, black section, and a black piston knob.  The cap is black with a single cap band bearing the inscription “Pelikan Germany.”  Absent here is the “Pelikan 120” engraving that ran along the side of both the 120 Type I and II’s cap.  The familiar pelican’s beak clip is apparent here though it is not as pointed as the original.  The cap top sports the modern single chick logo and all of the furniture is gold-plated.  The nib is gold-plated stainless steel with a design that is inspired from a curlicue found in one of Pelikan’s 1889 price lists.  The section has some mild mold lines which are barely perceptible unless sought out.  There is nothing fancy or ostentatious about this pen aside from the nib engraving and that makes sense as the original design was meant for school children.  The green-black color scheme was the only one available during the 10 year run of the original 120.  The look is clean and the design is solid.  It marks a nice balance between form and function and while the appearance will certainly be nostalgic for some, it is nothing extraordinary.  The M120N most commonly ships in Pelikan’s G5 gift box but certain vendors (i.e. La Couronne du Comte) are offering special commemorative boxes and even a bottle of ink so be sure to inquire from the vendor if packaging is important to you.

Pelikan M120N Fountain Pen

Pelikan M120N Fountain Pen

 


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10) – A well crafted pen that is durable despite its light weight

The M120N is a light pen due to it’s all plastic construction.  While it lacks any real heft, it does not feel flimsy or cheap.  The pen is a good size and is incredibly well-balanced when posted.  The cap post very securely to the back of the pen and did not give me any concern about falling off.  Likewise, the cap is not prone to unscrewing in the shirt pocket which is reassuring though can still be quickly removed when needed.  The ink window is light green and provides for an easy assessment of the remaining ink level.  The feed is constructed from today’s modern plastic with horizontal fins rather than the ebonite of the original which used the vertical fins.  That difference should make these feeds more durable in the long run.

Pelikan M120N Fountain Pen & Edelstein Aquamarine Ink

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – Light & nimble, perfect for long writing sessions

This is a light pen, much like most of Pelikan’s lower tier models.  The M120N measures 5.12 inches long capped and 6.14 inches posted.  It weighs in at 0.50 ounces and has a diameter of 0.47 inches.  The pen is the perfect size for a shirt pocket where it rests quite securely.  Those who like heavier pens may be turned off but the M120N is very comfortable to use.  Despite this being an homage to the 1950s version, the pen does not keep the same dimensions as the original.  It is actually longer in length, more in keeping with the Type II 120 made by Merz & Krell in the 1970s.  Having used all three models, the extra length is welcomed here, particularly if you are not into posting your pens.

Pelikan 120 Type I, M120N, and 120 Type II Size Comparison

Scale representation of the size differences between the three 120 variants

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Pelikan M120N and M205 Neptune Blue Fountain Pens

Left: Pelikan M120N (2016). Right: Size comparison between and M120N (2016) and the M201/205 Neptune Blue (2015)

 


  1. Nib & Performance (9/10) – Smooth and reliable, the way a nib should be

The M120N is equipped with a gold-plated stainless steel nib available in sizes EF, F, M, and B.  The nib is firm with just a hint of spring.  There is not any significant line variation to be had but the pen puts down a very wet and smooth line of ink.  The feed has been exceptional at providing a continuous flow of ink and definitely resists drying out.  If left unattended for a week or more, I have had no problems with it starting right up.  If left uncapped for several minutes between writing, again, not a single hesitation.  That is the kind of dependability that I look for in a fountain pen, no matter what the brand.  Also, my example arrived with perfectly aligned tines.  I purchased an F nib and the line width does approximate what I’d expect a western fine to be on good paper which I was happily surprised about.  If you are looking for a fine or extra fine nib, this shouldn’t disappoint by being too wide.  Despite being an F nib, there is none of that scratchiness that some finer nibs can have.  The writing experience is smooth and effortless, the way it is supposed to be and I’ve been very happy with the nib’s performance after four weeks of continuous use.  I don’t really notice the added flourish of the nib’s engraving like I do with some of their other pens but it’s a nice touch none the less and helps to set this nib apart from may of the others out there that have a similar appearance.

Pelikan M120N Nib

Pelikan M120N Nib Design

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – A generous amount of ink with each fill

The M120N carries Pelikan’s excellent piston filling mechanism.  The piston knob is easy to grip and actuate.  You get nearly a full fill on the first stroke and the pen seems to hold quite a large amount of ink.  I have seen quotes of 1.4mL which I have not verified but would not surprise me.  The piston knob seats securely against the back of the barrel when retracted and is without play.  There are no concerns of it inadvertently coming loose.  Maintenance is easy as the nib can be unscrewed if need be to facilitate repair, replacement, or simple flushing.  The piston assemblies are friction fitted and not made to be removed but this should rarely ever be necessary and is what I consider more of a non-issue.

Pelikan M120N Nib and Ink View Window

 


  1. Cost & Value (2/10) – The biggest disappointment about this pen is its price point

The German MSRP for this pen is €170 (~$187.62) and the US list price is $265.  Domestic vendors are asking approximately $212 which reflects the built-in 20% discount.  Overseas vendors prices vary but the M120N can be found from retailers for around €136 (~$150.00).  The M12oN is a great pen and will bring back a nostalgic feeling for many who may have learned to write with one of these.  Others will find the classic styling and iconic color scheme appealing.  I guess Pelikan is banking on nostalgia to move product but I find it to be wholly unjustified.  The Type I 120 was priced at 7.60 German Marks according to Pelikan’s 1955 catalog. The Type II 120 retailed for $7.50 in the USA during the 1970’s based on an old advertisement. Even adjusting for inflation (the type II would have cost $40.72 in today’s dollars) and allowing for a bigger profit margin, the price being asked for this release just feels gratuitous.  At the end of the day, fancy engraving on the nib does not remove the fact that this is a school pen at heart.  Would you pay over $200 for a Pelikano?  If you really want one of these, I’d encourage you to shop around for the best price which you’ll likely find overseas.  Also, great examples of the original 120 can be found on the used market for an average of about $50-60, a far better deal.  This is a great pen, one of my recent favorites actually, but I cannot recommend it at its current price point.  Jump on it if you can find a deal or if you have a lot of discretionary income to throw around.

Pelikan 1955 Catalog and Type II 120 Advertisement

Left: Page 88 from Pelikan’s 1955 catalog showing the 120 and suggested pricing of 7.60 DM. Right: United States advertisement circa 1973 depicting the 120 Type II for $7.50

 

Pelikan M120N Fountain Pen

 

Conclusion – A very nice retro inspired pen that is marred by its price tag

  • M120N Green-Black: 49/60 or 82%

The M120N is a great pen.  I have found it to be a very reliable writer over the past month and can see it being an excellent daily workhorse for many years to come.  It is not flashy in its styling but has very clean lines and that classic Pelikan appearance.  Of course the filling system and nib are the business end of the pen and both function incredibly well.  I’m consistently impressed by the ability of the pen to start up right away even when uncapped or unused for prolonged periods.  It is a shame then that I cannot recommend this pen at the current asking price.  I think Pelikan has dramatically overpriced this piece.  At the end of the day, it has school pen styling combined with Souverän pricing.  There are no fancy adornments to be found here and the nib is stainless steel.  I’m not sure what they hope to achieve by alienating a large sector of their user base but I’ll be interested to see if this is a continued theme with future special edition releases.  If you can pick one of these up on sale and at a much better price than is currently being asked, please don’t hesitate to do so.  Unless you have significant discretionary income to spend though, it pains me to recommend that you pass on the M120N as you can simply get so much more for the same amount of money elsewhere.

PROS

  • Beautiful, classic color scheme & styling
  • Excellent balance when posted
  • Nib and feed resist drying out and start up quite reliably

CONS

  • Very high retail pricing

 

A Look At The Pelikan M120N Green-Black
Pelikan M120N Green-Black 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.

24 responses

  1. A nice review, I fully agree. This fountain is a real retro pen which is writing perfectly, really surprising in comparison to the original Pelikan fountain pens of the last 15 years. Only the pricing is a little bit high. Anyhow a real Pelikan with Deutsche Grundlichkeit, just like we know of Pelikan pens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a good point. As I said, I don’t notice it much with day to day use but I agree with the incongruity. Almost feels like a touch of flourish to help justify the higher price. Not worth it in my opinion. Also, what happens if someone wants to swap nibs but keep the pen original? Will these embellished nibs be available for sale separately? I doubt it.

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    • Hi Rob. I’m not sure which is the first M120 that you’re referring to. M120 and M120N have been used interchangeably to describe this new 2016 model and Pelikan’s literature has both names for the same pen. If there is a another 120 that you’re referring to, there has been the 120 Type I (1955-1965), 120 Type II (1973-1977), and the MC120 which was a calligraphy pen based off of the M150. I’ll happily share the differences if you can just clarify for me which pen you’re referring to.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Joshua, Sorry for the late reply… busy trying to move to Philly area and got side-tracked. The M120 I’m referring to is a new pen advertised as “SE Historic M120 Green/Black w/ Fine Steel Nib.” I purchased it from martemodena (Italy) in 5/2016 for $117.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Update: Just dug the pen out of its hiding place only to discover that the nib is, in fact, gold “colored” and bears the engraving depicted in your review. So I’m assuming it’s a 14k plating. Also, I should note that I paid an additional $23 for shipping. Am now thinking I have the M120N.

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    • Fritz Schimpf does ship internationally I’m happy to say. They are a great retailer and I am a repeatedly satisfied customer of theirs. In fact, that is where I purchased my M120N. Congrats on the your purchase! You got about as good a price as there is out there. I hope that you enjoy it.

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  2. Thanks Joshua for this review!
    I was lucky enough to find my two M120N:s at a price not much above the ordinary pricetag for the M200. This pen is made for daily writing, not for resning in a cabinet or tray!

    Like

  3. Excellent review! I feel very much the same about this pen – quite wonderful, but the price is way too high. There even seems to be a large difference in price here in The Netherlands compared to the UK even. (40 euros or so)

    Like

    • Thanks! There is something about the simplicity and performance of this model that is just captivating. Shame that it’s ruined by the price tag but once you get past that, it’s pure joy.

      Like

  4. What He Said!

    I am glad to hear that your 120N was a keeper as was mine. Most of the new editions Pelikans I have purchased in the last few years have been great writers out of the box, however I have had a couple disappointments. Not so this new addition to my flock, it has been 11/10, very gratifying indeed.

    I think you know, this pen had my name all over it from the moment it was announced, I am just glad they didn’t price it higher, because I would have paid any price. The 120 type II which i bought in the early 1970’s was my first ‘real’ fountain pen, and it marked a significant time in my life so of course I had to have this reminder of my youth.

    Not only is this pen an icon for me, it is also a great writer. Already it has crossed the continent with me twice as well as batting around in my messenger bag on local jaunts. I’m thoughtful about what pens I travel with because I am hard on equipment: but this pen is built for adventure.

    I still have that old 120 I bought nearly 45 years ago and it still writes as if it were new. it’s not as glossy as the new pen, but both mean as much to me as juast about any other pen in my collection, Overpriced yes, but I have no doubt that even with minimal care this pen will long outlive me.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story Paul. The 120, in all of its incarnations, seems to be a survivor and your type II is a testament to that. Seems like you have a lot of good memories with that one. I love hearing those types of fountain pen stories.

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  5. I grew up with Parker 51. My Dad bought us fountain pens when we were very young and I have been writing nothing but fountain pens (and pencils) since. I am a late converter to Pelikan. Looks like I missed out the fond experience on the original 120. I want all my pens to be working pens, but this M120N seems to be more apt for that purpose. Very tempted to buy this one.

    Like

    • I don’t think that you would regret it. This pen continues to amaze me and may be leading for the title of “top workhorse” in my collection. No situation that I’ve thrown at it has slowed it down. It just works and I love that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bought! IguanaSell $180-$20(redeemed points)+free shipping=$160(+foreign exchange fee). Looking forward to using this new work pen. Thanks for your analysis & advise. 😀

        Like

        • You’re welcome and congratulations! You’ll have to let me know how you like it once you’ve inked it up. Knowing Iguana Sell, that shouldn’t be too long from now.

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