Fountain pens have been around since at least the 17th century and it stands to reason that the earliest variants likely adhered to the 20th century modernist architecture principle form follows function. This principle contends that the shape of an object should be based upon its intended purpose. I wonder how much time elapsed before pens started being embellished with unique styling and artistic sensibilities. There are some pens that are incredibly plain and while they may excel at what they do, they fail to ignite the senses. Others are so ornate and overblown that their artistry interferes with their function making for an all but useless show piece. Some pens are able to straddle the line between the two extremes and that is where Pelikan’s M800 Raden Royal Gold falls. With gold and black stripes reminiscent of a honey bee, the golden Raden finish married to the tried and true M800 chassis has resulted in an exceptional fine writing instrument, the likes of which haven’t been seen since a much more basic implementation on the now discontinued P3110 Ductus. Of course that is just my opinion but I hope to convince you of the same. The biggest argument against the design that I’ve heard is that this model has such a preponderance of gold that it makes for an overly ostentatious appearance (translation: too “blingy”). I can see why someone might feel that way but let me assure you that the use of gold here behind the mother of pearl overlay is not at all gratuitous. I always struggle with the utility of reviewing a pen made in such limited quantities and priced at such a luxury market price point. With only 388 people destined to enjoy the Raden Royal Gold, I decided to write this review in order to share the beauty and craftsmanship of this unique release with those who will never have the pleasure of owning this exquisite fine writing instrument.
Appearance & Design (9/10) – The pearlescent stripes give the pen a golden glow
The first thing that you’ll appreciate upon receipt is the packaging. There are no less than four boxes to get through before finding your pen. The first two are made of plain cardboard and house the penultimate box which is gilded with gold foil. The whole experience is reminiscent of opening a present at Christmas. Pelikan’s Raden series of pens are shipped in a traditional Japanese gift box made of Paulownia wood. Inside is a cradle of satin for the Raden Royal Gold. Also included are a brochure and warranty information. With the pen finally in hand, the first thing that you’re struck by are the pearlescent gold stripes arranged around a black barrel. The pen radiates a warmth and the best thing that I can liken it to is a glowing jar of honey. My only qualm with the design, and a small one at that, is that the stripes on the barrel stop below the ink window such that when the pen is capped, there is a noticeable gap between the edge of the cap band and the beginning of the stripes. It’s not a big issue but, to me, it would have been more aesthetically pleasing to keep the gap the same distance maintained elsewhere between the stripes and the furniture for a more uniform look. For those unfamiliar with the artistry involved in its design, Raden is a traditional Japanese decorative art that incorporates finely ground pieces of pearlescent shell. For the Royal Gold, a Japanese Urushi lacquer was first applied followed by stripes of 24 carat gold foil. The stripes were then embellished with finely crushed pieces of mother of pearl shell with another coating of lacquer to secure everything in place. Each model is individually signed and numbered by the artist with a Maki-e technique. The rest of the pen has the traditional trappings of a modern M800 including a gold-plated cap top, two cap bands, two trim rings at the piston knob, and a trim ring at the section There is a dark green ink window and the nib is made of 18C-750 two-toned gold in a medium point. Pelikan’s traditional beak clip completes the furniture.
Construction & Quality (9/10) – A well crafted pen that should retain its beauty for a long time
The construction of the Raden Royal Gold is characterized by the typical craftsmanship that Pelikan is known for. The M800 is a robust chassis to build on and the pen feels solid in the hand. There are no visible seams and the pen has a smooth finish. The trim ring at the section, while adding a touch of elegance, can be prone to plating loss and rusting so care should be taken if using particularly caustic inks. While something to consider, it is not something that I routinely worry about provided the pen receives routine care and maintenance. The nib on my model was well aligned upon arrival and puts down a smooth, medium line. Experiences will vary depending on the retailer and what your pen had to go through to get to you but I have been very satisfied with the quality of Pelikan’s nibs over most of my recent purchases. The furniture on this model is 24 carat gold-plated and the cap posts very securely on the back of the pen. There is some consideration for marring of the barrel when posting but I have not experienced this to date and a light pen polish usually helps to mitigate the issue. The cap is secure in the pocket and I have had no problem with it coming undone unintentionally. I would anticipate that the Raden Royal Gold will retain its luster and beauty for a long time if cared for properly.
Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – Appreciably hefty without being overly heavy
The Raden Royal Gold is built off of the M800 line and retains the same dimensions as the other models in that line. For many, that is a great thing because the M800 represents a sweet spot in terms of size and comfort. For others, it’s one more lamentation that exceptional models such as this aren’t provided in a smaller form, particularly that of the M600. The Raden Royal Gold measures approximately 5.59 inches capped, 6.57 inches posted, 0.52 inches in diameter, and weighs 0.99 ounces. The brass piston assembly provides a welcomed bit of heft. I personally find the M800 to be a comfortable writer, even during longer writing sessions. The M800 has a nice fit in the hand when used un-posted and posting, as is my general preference, does not cause it to become too heavy on the back end. Since this is a larger sized pen, be aware that it might not fit well in all of your shirt pockets if that is how you like to carry your pen. Is it bad that I buy my dress shirts based on their ability to accommodate my Pelikans? I’m not inclined to let a looker like this one get too far out of my sight.
Nib & Performance (9/10) – Smooth and reliable but would really shine with a custom grind
The Raden Royal Gold is equipped with Pelikan’s standard two-toned 18C-750 nib. The Raden models are usually only distributed in a medium width but retailers will usually supply whichever size you might want from the available standard line-up. The medium nib is a faithful performer. My example seems to have a bit more spring than what I’ve been accustomed to and even a hint of character. I’m not sure that it isn’t my eyes deceiving me but it appears that the down stroke is slightly thicker than the cross stroke. This serves to make the Raden Royal Gold’s nib one of the more enjoyable modern nibs that I’ve used in some time (M1000 models excluded). The feed and cap allow the pen to resist drying out for quite a while if left unused. There is a fair bit of tipping on the nib if you’d like to have a custom grind added to further accentuate such a unique writing instrument. The Raden Royal Gold succeeds at combining a stunning appearance with a reliable performance in one handheld package.
Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – Easy to fill and easy to maintain
Pelikan’s piston filling system is second to none in my opinion. There has been very little innovation since its introduction and perhaps that isn’t a bad thing as it is hard to improve upon near perfection. The piston travels the length of the barrel smoothly and usually fills to capacity in just one cycle. The piston knob secures snugly to the barrel when not in use. The ink capacity is about 1.35 mL which should provide sufficient time between refills for most (depending on ink/paper/nib width combos). Pelikan’s pistons are easily serviced by removing the nib and applying the tiniest drop of pure silicone grease. Unlike the smaller models in the Souverän line, the piston assembly of the M800 is threaded allowing the piston to be removed. While it is next to never necessary to do so, this ability should add some peace of mind given the magnitude of the purchase. The other nice feature here is the swappable nib should you want to experiment with other sizes after your purchase.
Cost & Value (6/10) – A low production, high-priced limited edition release
The Raden Royal Gold is a limited edition in the highly sought after Raden series of releases with just 388 pens available worldwide. The German MSRP is €1750 (~$2040.69). In the United States, the MSRP is $3000 with domestic retailers selling at a 20% discount for a final sale price of $2400. That translates into a hefty expenditure for the joy of owning one of these. For those who were lucky enough to get in on the pre-orders available through overseas vendors, the Raden Royal Gold was able to be had for around $1450. I don’t think this pen will ever see that type of pricing again. While this Raden is beautiful and reliable, make no mistake, it is a luxury item and not meant for the masses with that kind of price tag. While no fountain pen purchase should be looked at as an investment, I do believe that the limited availability and general demand will surely allow the Raden Royal Gold to at least retain its value for the foreseeable future.
Conclusion – A bewitching Raden pen gilded with gold and stunning to behold
M800 Raden Royal Gold: 52/60 or 87%
The Raden Royal Gold represents a special bit of uniqueness in the Pelikan line-up with its pearlescent golden stripes. The design is well executed and I appreciate the fact that this Raden was released on an M800 platform rather than the much larger M1000 (don’t get me wrong though, I love my M1000 Raden Sunrise). The only major loss of points here is for the cost which is admittedly a subjective valuation. Given the limited nature of this run, I’m sure that most models have been sold and those that remain will surely command premium pricing. If you want a pen that makes a statement and have the money to burn, you could do a lot worse than owning an M800 Raden Royal Gold.
A Look At The Pelikan M800 Raden Royal Gold
Pelikan M800 Raden Royal Gold 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.