Review: M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)Few designs capture the imagination of the fountain pen community like a tortoise release from Pelikan.  The tortoise finish goes all the way back to the earliest days of Pelikan’s foray into fountain pens.  Forums can frequently be found with posts lamenting the lack of a tortoiseshell variant of one model or another.  When the M800 Tortoiseshell Brown was released in 2013, it became an instant classic.  Prior to that the M4xx line last saw a tortoise release in 2009 (M415) and the M600 line last had one in 2012 (Tortoiseshell White).  When the M800 was made available, one of the few criticisms from the community was that such a finish was not present in a smaller sized model.  Three years later and Pelikan has again resurrected the tortoise as a special edition finish in the M400 series.  This is the first brown tortoise in the M400 line in seven years and is sure to make a big splash, particularly amongst those that favor a smaller/standard sized writing instrument. After a month of regular use, I’ve been very pleased by this model and felt that a review was in order.  Read on to discover my thoughts on the newest special edition to join the flock.

 

  1. Appearance & Design (9/10) – Another stunning brown tortoise release

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

The tortoise finish is either something you love or hate.  The modern tortoises tend to skew a bit more orange compared with their vintage counterparts since the 2013 release of the M800.  I have always had a soft spot for a tortoise pen and the M400 is no different.  It is visually stunning.  To start, the pen comes in Pelikan’s higher end G15 gift box which makes for a nice presentation.  Once you’ve gotten through the packaging, the next thing you notice is just how incredibly dark the brown resin of the cap, section, and piston knob is.  Those pieces almost look black and can be hard to distinguish as brown unless held up against a true black for comparison.  The furniture is 24K gold-plated and compliments the barrel’s pattern well.  The barrel is transparent and allows you to easily gauge the remaining ink level when the pen is held up to a light source (depicted to the right).  Since this is a Souverän, the pen has a polished appearance consistent with its price point.  You’ll find the standard trim of the modern Souverän including two trim rings at the piston knob, two cap bands, and a single trim ring at the section.  The traditional pelican’s beak clip is present and the crown cap top depicts the single chick Pelikan logo covered in 24K gold plating.

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Top: M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (1990-1996). Bottom: M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

 


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10) – A precision instrument that is light in weight without feeling cheap

The M400 feels solid in the hand and all of the components fit together with precision.  The barrel is made of cellulose acetate and the cap, section, and piston knob are done in resin.  While the M400 is light in weight (0.53 ounces), it does not feel cheap and the seams are not easily visible.  As usual, construction and quality are not a concern which is as it should be for a pen with this outlay.  The piston is super smooth resulting in hassle free filling and use.  The cap can be quickly unscrewed to get to the writing task at hand and I have never experienced the cap unintentionally coming loose in the pocket.  The trim ring at the section persist and I doubt we’ll ever see it go away.  This can cause issues down the road as contact with ink can cause the plating to corrode over time (seen with well used pens on the secondary market).  Still, with proper care and handling, the M400 should last indefinitely.  If there is an issue due to a defect, the pen is backed by Pelikan’s 3 year warranty which comes standard as well as their free 30-day nib exchange in the event that is necessary.  

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Left to right: M800 Tortoiseshell Brown (2013), M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (1990-96), M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – A standard sized pen with exceptional balance when posted

The M400 is a lighter pen by design and not suited to everyone’s taste.  While light in weight, I find the pen incredibly comfortable to use.  I have had no concerns with fatigue during extended writing sessions.  The pen can be used comfortably without posting but the real beauty of the design shines through when the pen is posted as this imparts a near perfect balance.  The brown tortoise M400 measures 5 inches when closed, 5.87 inches posted, 0.46 inches in diameter, and weighs 0.53 ounces.  The ink capacity is 1.30mL.  While smaller than most other Souveräns, the M400 packs a lot into a smaller form factor which hits the sweet spot for many of Pelikan’s fans.

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Side by side comparison of the M800 (2013) and M400 (2016) Tortoiseshell Brown limited edition releases

 


  1. Nib & Performance (9/10) – The factory italic option is a welcome addition to the staid nib line-up

The M400 comes with a two toned, rhodium plated 14C-585 gold nib available in the standard sizes of EF, F, M, and B.  If you purchase from one of the many reliable overseas vendors, a factory italic broad option is also available.  Curiously, I have not seen the italic offered by any US vendors making me questions whether this nib is an overseas exclusive.  My example is equipped with a fine nib since a finer line suits my writing better.  Over the last several releases, I have noticed that the line put down has been true to the nib’s designation and have consequently stopped buying nibs a size smaller than I desired because of this.  This nib is firm, wet, and smooth.  It lacks any variability or character which is standard for Pelikan’s modern nibs.  While the nib won’t give your writing much flourish, unless you opt for the italic option, it will provide a consistent and reliable writing experience.  My example came perfectly aligned and wrote well out of the box which I have found to be the case more often than not.  Pelikan’s nib is married to an exceptional feed that is great at resisting drying out.  This brown torty always seems ready to write when I am and I appreciate that kind of reliability.  One of the reasons that I fell in love with Pelikan is because their pens are work horses and this model is no exception.

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

Left: Post-1997 M400 14C-585 two-tone, rhodium plated nib. Right: Pre-1997 M400 14C-585 monotone nib

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

M400 Tortoiseshell Brown nib (fine)

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – A removable nib that facilitates easy maintenance

Pelikan’s piston filling system is almost beyond reproach.  It should be telling that the actual mechanism has hardly been altered since its conception.  The piston knob snugs tightly against the barrel when not in use and the pen fills almost completely in a single stroke of the piston.  The M400 holds 1.3mL of ink which is a decent volume given the smaller form factor.  Since the nib can be removed, the pen can be easily cleaned and maintained.   This also facilitates facile replacement/repair of the nib.  The piston mechanism itself is friction fitted to the barrel and should not be removed without good cause.  Thankfully, this is rarely ever an issue and should not be a viable consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase this model.

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown (2016)

 


  1. Cost & Value (7/10) – The US market continues to see higher pricing therefore the best value remains with overseas vendors

The German MSRP for this pen is €320 (~$347.83) and the US list price is $475.  Domestic vendors are asking approximately $380 which reflects the built-in 20% discount.  Overseas vendors prices vary but the M400 Tortoiseshell Brown ranges from $250-350.  Just be aware that Chartpak, Pelikan’s US distributor and warranty servicer,  may choose to not honor the warranty on new pens if purchased from authorized Pelikan retailers abroad.  There does not appear to be any special mark-up from the standard M400 colors despite the limited nature of this model.  As always, value is a subjective thing but I do believe this pen will hold onto its worth.  While it won’t make you a fortune in speculation, I suspect that you could resell it in the future without taking a significant loss.  The M800 tortoises from 2013 are now scarce and can command up to $1000+ per pen, well above their original asking price.

 

Conclusion – A stunning tortoise release in a smaller form factor

  • M400 Tortoiseshell Brown: 54/60 or 90%

This M400 is yet another beautiful Souverän release out of Hannover.  It has been a true work horse over the last month that I’ve been using it with the added bonus of being a pleasure to look upon.  While the pen is not cheap, I do believe that it can be found at reasonable prices particularly since these are likely to retain much of their value at resale.  The US market continues to consistently be subjected to significantly higher pricing therefore those on a tighter budge can find much more attractive pricing when shopping overseas.  I think that the M400 brings the coveted tortoise finish of 2013 to a more standard sized pen which is sure to please a large swath of enthusiast who find the M8xx to simply be too large.  Of course, this does nothing for those who find the M6xx to be their sweet spot but I do believe that this release gives hope to anyone wanting to see the tortoise finish introduced to some of Pelikan’s other lines.  

PROS

  • A classic brown tortoise finish in a smaller form factor
  • Unbeatable balance when posted
  • A reliable nib with the benefit of a new, italic broad option
  • The pen will likely resist depreciation and retain its value in the future

CONS

  • The pen remains expensive though it is competitive with other M4xx models
  • The M400 is too light for many to comfortably use
  • The italic broad nib option does not appear to be available from US vendors
  • Chartpak may not honor warranty claims on pens purchased overseas

 

A Look At The Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown
Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell Brown 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.

**Posted in memory of my paternal grandmother, Oma Danley (1934-2016)

25 responses

  1. Excellent review. I really do think that tortoise should be a standard finish, as it used to be. I own a ’50s 400 and ’80s M400, and this new iteration seems to me closer to the original than the ’80s version.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review.
    The tortoises are all just gorgeous. I just received mine today, with an excellent IB nib that is super wet, just the way I like.
    Now they just need to make a white tortoise M800 :). One can always dream…

    Like

  3. I can’t decide between the brown tortoiseshell M400 and the Stresemann M405. They both appeal to me in their own way. Actually with year end coming (Christmas spending), I shouldn’t be thinking of buying either one, but I know later on I will regret not getting them!

    Sorry to hear that your granny passed away. Some say the internet keeps things forever. So will all your posts, especially this one in memory of your grandmother. May she rest in peace.

    Like

    • The tortoise is more likely to be the scarcer, higher dollar pen down the road. If I had to choose between the two, that would be the one I would go for. The M405 will likely be much easier to get down the road. Thank you for your condolences and kind words.

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        • Tortoises tend to hold their value well and are made in limited production runs. They come around infrequently enough to not dilute the market. The M405 Stresemann may become a standard production pen meaning it will be made in larger quantities and around for a longer period of time. The Tortoise will be the one people most regret not getting if choosing between the two. That’s just my opinion of course and extrapolated from the M800 tortoise and M805 Stresemann releases.

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          • Hi Joshua, thanks for your advise. I dragged my feet too long, it ends up the availability makes the decision for me. Brown Tortoises all sold out, so I bought the Stresemann, adding this interesting color scheme to my collection of Pelikans (grey is one of my favorite colors). I found the price I am OK with, but not the best price you quoted ($250). Oh well, cutting back somewhere else – maybe a smaller Christmas tree this year. 🙂

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  4. I got one of the last examples, fortunately with an IB nib,. Very special to write with, I like to write broad or BB nibs due to the fact it asks for more patience. Also the result is tremendous, completely different in comparison to a medium nib. personally I love the M 8XX size, this M4XX is a little bit smaller and thinner, but a really nice fountain pen its shines like a fire, every corner a different light flash just like a diamond. With its colorful brown/ orange flame very spectacular. I love this color.

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    • I opted to skip the IB in this model and have been wondering whether or not that was a mistake. I have two of the M800 IB nibs, including one on my M800 tortoise. I wanted a more every day nib for the M400 but I am jealous of your IB. Enjoy your tortoise!

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    • Hello. I have not used the Franklin Christoph Model 03 so I cannot give you a fair comparison or advice of which to choose. I have only heard good things about the model 03 and the company has amazing customer service which I can attest to first hand. Heck, the Model 03 has a lifetime warranty vs Pelikan’s 3 year warranty. The biggest difference between the two is cartridge filler vs piston filler. The Model 03 has several more nib options (some nicer, exotic choices) and is expensive but overall cheaper than the Pelikan. It really comes down to personal taste and what you’re looking for in a pen. Better is a very subjective thing. Both are excellent models that could serve you well depending on your taste. Good luck with your decision.

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  5. Thanks for the review, I decided to buy one. I did receive it today. It’s a gorgeous pen. Could you tell me if the lines are supposed to be straight, like the other Pelikan pens? Mine are not but all my other pen like my m400, M600, M800 are. Thanks!

    Like

    • I see that you already found your answer on FPN but to reiterate her, no, the lines don’t necessarily need to be straight. There is inherent variability in the way the barrel is designed which adds an element of uniqueness to each pen. Your pen is perfectly normal so don’t fret and enjoy that brown tortoise.

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      • Hi Joshua, thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I wanted to ask a broader audience and the FPN was the other place that I asked. I am still surprised to see that my 3 other Pelikan pens have straight lines and not this one. I will have to get used to it I guess. I can’t wait to write with this pen. Enjoy your weekend!

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        • You’re most welcome. The randomness in the patterns were more inherent in the older barrels but the modern ones still exhibit it, a product of the manufacturing process. As John Legend sings “Love…All your perfect imperfections.” I think that best sums it up for me.

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  6. Pingback: 2016 In Review: A Look Back At Pelikan’s Line-up « The Pelikan's Perch

    • Hello Stephen. Yes, they 2016 Tortoiseshell Brown is offered as a rollerball. The model number is R400 and the part number is 800907. They go for around $300 in the USA.

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