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