Review: M101N Bright Red (2017)

Pelikan M101N Bright RedNews broke of the M101N Bright Red at the end of January and pens started shipping just a few weeks ago.  The M101N is a modern re-imagining of a line of pens that Pelikan first introduced in the 1930s.  Since 2011, we have had several releases in the series including the Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), the Lizard (2012),  and the Tortoiseshell Red (2014).  It’s not clear why the hiatus between the Tortoiseshell Red and the new Bright Red.  What’s interesting about the Bright Red is that there is no direct historical 101N model from which it draws upon for its design.  Perhaps that might explain the delay in a new model being put forth.  The closest approximation in Pelikan’s history appears to be the amazing 101 Coral Red.  The 101s were 100s that had colored caps but still retained the design of the 100.  While the finishes of the modern Bright Red and vintage Coral Red are similar, the look of the two models is significantly different.  There is a lot of divided sentiment about these modern releases and I find most of the accolade and adoration consistently goes to the Tortoiseshell Brown.  Read on to find out whether or not the M101N Bright Red can upset the Tortoiseshell Brown’s place on the throne.

 

  1. Appearance & Design (6/10) – A lack of visual contrast leads to an overall uninspired look

The first thing that you’ll note upon arrival is the packaging.  Delivered in a large, square box, the M101N gift packaging includes a leather-like pen sleeve as well as a bottle of 4001 Royal Blue ink which is a nice touch.  The M101N Bright Red is similar in style to the models that came before it.  The pen has gold-plated furniture that includes double cap bands and a tear drop cap clip.  No other trim rings are to be found.  The piston knob, cap top, and section are color coordinated and are done in a bright red that is a few shades lighter than the red that was employed with the M101N Tortoiseshell Red.  The nibs are styled in a retro fashion similar to the vintage script nibs.  They lack the Pelikan logo which wasn’t engraved on the nib until around 1954.  The Bright Red has a red cap and barrel with yellow-orange marbling throughout.  The promotional pictures don’t do it justice and it has to be seen to be fully appreciated.  That said, the design feels somewhat uninspired.  Perhaps that owes to the subtlety of the marbling.  While there is no direct correlation with a historical 101N, the Coral Red 101 comes the closest.  The vintage model looks much sharper to my eye, perhaps owing to the black piston knob and section providing some much needed contrast.  One other thing to note on the current model, the red base color of the cap doesn’t exactly match the barrel on my pen.  There is a couple of shades difference between the two pieces.  I have seen others report similar though I’m not sure how pervasive this issue actually is.  This may simply be a quirk in the manufacturing but, for the price paid, it is somewhat disappointing that it doesn’t match throughout.  The amber ink window is very appealing to me and appears to mimic the one found on the Tortoiseshell Red. In fact, when I look at the Bright Red, I can’t help but question whether or not Pelikan was simply trying to find a way to do away with surplus materials left over from the last production run.

Packaging for the Pelikan M101N Bright Red

Packaging for the Pelikan M101N Bright Red which includes a bottle of Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue ink

 

Pelikan M101N Bright Red

 

Pelikan M101N Bright Red

 

Pelikan 101 Coral Red

Original 101 Coral Red from 1937. One of the more rare vintage finishes to be found

 


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10) – Should stand up well to the rigors of daily use

I’m a firm believer that every pen should be used.  There are no show pieces in my collection and the M101N does not disappoint when it comes to construction.  These are well made pens that, while light in weight, have a good fit and finish amongst all of the assembled pieces.  The seams are polished and the overall impression is that of a sturdy wiring instrument.  I wouldn’t take my chances dropping it onto a hard surface but, short of that, the M101N should stand up well to the rigors of daily use.

Pelikan M101N Bright Red

A close look at the yellow and orange marbling that swirls along the red barrel of the Bright Red

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (8/10) – Short and light but overall very comfortable to use

The M101N is 4.84 inches capped and 6.22 inches posted.  I find that these pens fit well in the hand whether posted or not but I do prefer to post the M101N.  When posted, the pen takes on a very nice size for me.  It should be noted that the cap does not post quite as securely as some of my other Pelikans so care should be exercised lest it fall off.  The weight of the Bright Red is just 0.52 ounces which makes for what I consider a light pen.  While this doesn’t bother me, I know that many will find this too small to be comfortable, preferring something with a bit more heft, like the M800.  That said, the Bright Red is certainly comfortable to write with during extended writing sessions.

Pelikan M101N Bright Red

 


  1. Nib & Performance (7/10) – A smooth, wet line that runs a tad wide and lacks character

The M101N comes equipped with a monotone yellow gold 14C-585 nib which has a bit of a retro look to it.  They feature an inscription stacked as 4 lines that reads “Pelikan | 585 | 14 Karat | F.”  The final line is the nib size and these are available in the standard EF, F, M, and B.  My Bright Red has a fine nib and puts down a wet, smooth line of ink without any significant tooth.  Unfortunately, my fine writes a line much more consistent with a medium, a finding that I also encountered with the nib on my Tortoiseshell Red.  If you want a finer line, you may want to opt for a nib that is a size or two smaller than what you are looking for.  The nibs are quite firm and do not have any flex.  Consequently, the line is devoid of character though what it lacks in variation, it makes up for in dependability.  The Pelikan feed does a great job of resisting drying out and provides relatively worry free performance. 

Pelikan M101N Bright Red Nib

Retro style 14C-585 monotone yellow gold nib in fine

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – One of the best piston mechanisms out there

The Bright Red does not try to improve upon perfection.  Included here is Pelikan’s legendary piston filling mechanism which brings a butter smooth and consistent filling experience.  You get almost a full fill on a single stroke of the piston.  Unlike many of Pelikan’s other makes, the piston mechanism of the M101N is removable.  These are reverse threaded into the barrel rather than being  friction fitted.  There is usually little to no reason to ever remove the piston assembly,  but it is nice to know that it can be easily done if need be.  The nibs on these are also user replaceable which allows for easy customization and maintenance, another big check in the plus column.

Pelikan M101N Bright Red

A closer look at the amber ink window

 


  1. Cost & Value (5/10) – Hard to get excited for this pen at the US MSRP

The US MSRP for the Bright Red is $650.  The built-in 20% discount means that these will be found for sale for around $520 domestically.  Overseas prices are much more attractive with reliable, authorized retailers selling the M101N for ~$405-483.  Everyone has to determine for themselves if a pen is worth the asking price.  The Bright Red is a sturdy and reliable writer but it leaves me wanting.  At the US price point, I would probably pass.  If you can pick one up from overseas, the $100+ savings does play a big factor into the decision.  Of course Chartpak, the US distributor, will not honor the warranty or nib swap period on pens purchased from overseas so that has to be figured into the equation.  It’s too soon to tell how well the Bright Red will hold its value over time.

M101N Lizard, Tortoiseshell Brown, Tortoiseshell Red, and Bright Red

M101Ns left to right; Lizard, Tortoiseshell Brown, Tortoiseshell Red, and Bright Red

 

Conclusion – A solid pen with an uninspired look and a price tag that’s a bit hard to justify

  • M101N Bright Red: 46/60 or 77%

There is nothing wrong with the M101N Bright Red per se.  For me, it lacks the appeal that the other models have had.  Perhaps its the lack of contrast that really keeps the barrel and cap from standing out and being more impactful.  This is all subjective, of course, and I invite you to draw your own conclusions.  I do think a great number of people will buy the Bright Red, particularly those who own the other three and are looking to complete the set.   The Tortoiseshell Brown and Red remain my favorites to date.  At the end of the day, your money will buy you a solid pen with a consistent writing experience but I can’t help but feel that your money would go further invested elsewhere.

PROS

  • Solid construction with a well polished finish
  • A consistent and reliable nib and feed
  • Pelikan’s second to none piston filling mechanism

CONS

  • The look is simply not as striking as it could be (perhaps due to the lack of contrast)
  • No character or variation in the nib
  • The cap does not post as well as some of Pelikan’s other offerings

 

A Look At The Pelikan M101N Bright Red
Pelikan M101N Bright 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.

 

18 responses

  1. As always, I find your reviews thorough and interesting. Of course the appeal of a pen is incredibly subjective. My first pen purchase was the Cafe et Crema which I bought from Singapore (a long tale of woe) because I could not get it out of my head and it was no longer around from normal sources. Despite a lengthy tale of sorrows, and the purchase of more than twenty pens since, it remains a favourite. This bright red one does nothing at all for me and that is probably a good thing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! The Café Crème is one of the nicest releases that has come out in some time. The coloring really is exceptional. Of course all of these are subjective statements. Good thing the company puts out so much variety. Definitely something for everybody out there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the look of this latest addition to the M101n range and would love to add it to the other three models I already have but …..

    Even though I’ve been stashing a little away each month in anticipation of 2017’s releases, my main focus is the M2xx range. Although I’m not paying US prices (thankfully), recent developments around the dreaded Brexit debacle mean that both the UK prices and that in EU are a little more than I would want to pay.

    Sadly the Bright Red M101n will not be finding its way into my flock.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The M2xx range is very close to my heart. Looking forward to seeing an M205 Smoky Quartz myself. Brexit has definitely had an impact on Pelikan pricing. Perhaps the Bright Red may be discounted at the end of its sales cycle allowing you to pick one up. You never know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A great writing, photography and video review of the new Pelikan red. You are a great ambassador for the Pelikan Company. Bravo for your good work on behalf of the pen community.

    As a collector of vintages Pelikans, I have beed fooled a few times by these replicas as I walk around during the pen shows and see these on the tables.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Joshua. I always appreciate the insight and honesty you bring in your reviews. Like Francis said, Bravo!

    I agree, the Bright Red seems to lack, especially if you harken back to the Coral. Perhaps your comment about lack of contrast hits the mark… wonder how this offering would be received with a black or deep brown piston knob, more in keeping with the Coral’s style?

    And I agree on the price, it is too high here to get me to part with the M205 and M8xx funds I’ve earmarked for later in the year. One of these M101N’s, the Brown, will have to do it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Happy to hear that you like the reviews. From what I’ve seen coming, I think saving your money for a future release is very reasonable and wise. These should be available for a bit and you could always circle back if nothing else jumps out at you.

      Like

  5. Hi Josh,
    Great post as always! I agree completely with your assessment of the pen but am of two minds as to what to do. I have the other three versions so it would be nice to continue the set; however, the price/beauty ratio makes it considerably less attractive, even more so for Canadians like me. I suspect that I will eventually buy one but only when the price softens considerably or some other favourable buying opportunity arises!
    Cheers!
    Mike

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mike! I’m a completionist which is the main reason for my purchase and I assume a lot of sales will be driven by others who are as well. Hopefully you can find one at a discount in the future. Good luck.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for your thorough and honest review!

    For me, personally, this is the most beautiful pen of the bunch and the first I seriously consider buying. What for you looks like a pen lacking contrast for me is cohesiveness. And subtlety. Understatement, as far as that is possible with a red pen. For my taste pens that combine parts with different colours look interrupted, as if the parts were taken from different pens and wildly combined. To each his/her own craziness, I guess. 😉

    I have already seen the Red in person and I find the slight ‘mismatch’ of the material colours far less disturbing than with the Coral version of Montblancs Rouge & Noir, for example.

    Maybe this will be a pen that needs to grow on people. I like that our tastes differ and Pelikan hast something to offer for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your perspective and your comments about cohesiveness. I can understand looking at things that way, even if it isn’t to my own personal taste. As you said, Pelikan has no shortage of finishes which I think gives the brand a very wide appeal.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, I had completely resisted this pen due to the reasons you so eloquently outlined, even though I truly adore and own the first three releases in this series…but, as fate would have it, Iguana Sell put it on sale for Fountain Pen Day 2017 at $330 shipped, and that was too much of a price cut for me to resist. So, after many months, I came back to revisit your review and note that the completionist in me feels a bit satisfied that the group will no longer be missing a member. It really should have a black knob, and I’d even prefer a black finial on top, too… thanks, Joshua. 🖋

    Like

    • Congrats on the M101N Dan. I too feel like a bit of a completionist and therefore was somewhat obligated to buy. There is nothing wrong with the pen though and it does grow on you after a while. You can’t beat that deal from Iguana Sell. Congrats again!

      Like

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