Pelikan has several brightly colored models in its stable of past releases though only a precious few bear the moniker ‘vibrant.’ Prior to this year, we only had the M600 Vibrant Green (2014) and the M805 Vibrant Blue (2016). It seems a biennial pattern of vibrant releases is emerging because this year we’ve been given the M600 Vibrant Orange. It may surprise you to learn that these finishes are not unique nor did they originate with these larger birds. Back in 2004, Pelikan gave us the M320 Orange followed by the M320 Green three years later. The smallest of the Sovueräns, these tiny pens pioneered the vibrant finish even if they weren’t named as such. Other manufacturers have produced similar finishes which can be seen with the Delta Dolce Vita Oro, Pineider Avatar Saffron Yellow, and the Aurora 88 Sole to name just a few. Pelikan appears to have dusted off the old cellulose-acetate to bring us this year’s Vibrant Orange. Looking back at the releases that have graced the M6xx line in recent years, it certainly looks as though this line, more than any other, is Pelikan’s outlet for colorful expression. I’d wager that few lines have seen the bouquet of colors that the M6xx has which is ironic since so many voices have clamored for a Tortoiseshell Brown or Anthracite Stresemann to grace the platform. As my little kindergartener tells me, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” So it is with open arms that I welcomed the Vibrant Orange into my flock and after some use, have found it unique enough to review. Read on to find out if this is the model for you. I have a suspicion it may well be the last official release we see out of Hannover for 2018.
Appearance & Design (7/10) – Vibrant but only to a point
The Vibrant Orange generally comes in Pelikan’s standard G15 gift packaging which I’ve described in detail in other reviews. It serves its purpose well but really hasn’t seen any revision in some time. Once you open the faux leather pouch contained within and retrieve your new pen, you immediately appreciate just how bright and colorful the Vibrant Orange is, particularly when juxtaposed with many of this year’s other releases. I’m instantly reminded of that small M320 Orange from nearly a decade and a half ago, perhaps now all grown up. As you rotate the pen in good light, you see the material whirl and eddy thereby creating mountainous regions capped with a wonderful pearl essence. The effect brilliantly gives the material a sense of depth and dimension, bringing the M600 to life. As I continue to rotate the pen, I’m pulled out of my reverie just a little bit and think, “Oh no, here we go again.” Just as we saw with the M805 Ocean Swirl (2017) last year, the Vibrant Orange has a dirty secret not well depicted in the marketing photos. While it may be all orange, it is not all vibrant. There are alternating bands that run along the length of the barrel and cap which are darker, duller, and, well, a whole lot less vibrant. Of course there is inherent variability and some pens will display this more dramatically than others. If it truly matters to you, try to get a good look at your intended purchase before hand if possible. As I reflect upon it, I suppose that it is nice to have some counterpoint which allows me to appreciate those areas that are so bright but I also can’t help being disappointed by the effect at times. The gold-plated accent elements feel like the right choice here but they get swallowed up a bit by the surrounding orange. Also, when capped, your eyes see nothing but orange until you get to the black resin piston knob which comes off as a bit unbalanced and somewhat visually jarring. It’s not anything we haven’t seen before as none of these design elements are unique to the Vibrant Orange. To me, the pen looks much nicer when uncapped as the black section helps provide an element of balance with the piston knob. These are all subjective criticisms of course which is why I invite each of you to draw your own conclusions. I will say that the material definitely has translucency which allows for easy viewing of the remaining ink in the pen even in the absence of a discrete ink view window. As such, I would caution you against using inks that have a high potential for staining.
Construction & Quality (9/10) – Say what you will, you can hardly fault a Souverän’s construction
The Pelikan brand comes from a long tradition of quality craftsmanship and the Vibrant Orange is no exception leaving very little to criticize. The pen has a very polished appearance and is without seams or other signs of the industrial process. All of the individual pieces fit securely and hold tight. The piston travels smoothly along the length of the barrel. If there is one small area of weakness, it would be the gold-plated trim ring at the section, a feature that has graced every Souverän since 1997. This trade-off between form and function can be prone to corrosion but it is admittedly more of a distant worry that I do not find to be a significant issue with good pen hygiene. Still, I point it out for completeness. The cap posts securely and is without any movement for those of you who prefer to post your pens. Finally, the nib of my pen came nicely tuned out of the box, something that I’ve been very fortunate with on the whole. Of course there will be some statistical variability here and that will not be the case for everyone. Most vendors are only too happy to remedy this with a nib swap should it occur.
Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – The Goldilocks Souverän, neither too big nor too small
The M600 line serves an interesting role as intermediary, uniquely poised as the preferred size for many. It provides an alternative to the M400 which many find too small but it is not nearly so large or heavy as the M800, a pen whose size many cannot comfortably adapt to. Like other models in the series, the M600 Vibrant Orange measures approximately 5.28 inches when capped, 6.10 inches when posted, and is 0.49 inches in diameter. It weighs in around 0.57 ounces. In general, I find the M600 to be comfortable to use in any configuration though really appreciate it most when posted due to the better balance, weight, and overall feel. The pen’s size also lends itself to travel and I never have to worry about it not fitting in a pocket or case meaning that it’s always on hand when needed.
Nib & Performance (8/10) – Wet, reliable, and true but don’t expect any added flourish
The Vibrant Orange comes equipped with Pelikan’s standard two-toned 14C-585 gold nib. The example that I purchased is of a medium width and puts down a line commensurate with that designation. As I said before, the tines of my nib came nicely aligned and the pen wrote smoothly out of the box. There are no issues with hard starts and the line is very wet and generous, a hallmark of Pelikan’s nibs. The feed continues to impress, resisting drying out, even with extended intervals between use. The elephant in the room for Pelikan since 2013 has been the relative lack of interesting nib options since the oblique and extra broad variants were discontinued. The currently available nib options are certainly very serviceable and all are work horses to be sure but there just isn’t anything inspired about them. The lines they create are devoid of character or flourish and pale in comparison to Pelikan’s past efforts from many decades ago. Of course, there is always after market customization which can breathe new life into any nib and this is one that I may have my preferred nib meister tweak in D.C. next year.
Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – A standard by which all others should be measured
Pelikan continues to lead the pack here with their tried and true piston filling system. A single cycle of the piston can net you almost the full stated ink capacity of approximately 1.30 mL. The piston is easily serviced by unscrewing the nib and applying the tiniest drop of pure silicone grease along the inside of the barrel (perhaps every few years depending upon your usage and maintenance habits). Like all Souveräns below the M8xx, the piston assembly is friction fit into the barrel. It is not meant to be removed and doing so can run the risk of permanently damaging your pen. Don’t let that dissuade you though since removal of the piston assembly is almost never indicated and should not be considered a part of routine maintenance. While the piston assembly is fixed in place, the nib is removable to allow for cleaning, swapping, or repair should the unfortunate befall.
Cost & Value (6/10) – The first Pelikan to be hit with an EF surcharge in the USA
The M600 Vibrant Orange looks to be the first pen available in the USA that is to be subject to Pelikan’s EF surcharge. That means models equipped with a F, M, or B nib will carry a U.S. MSRP of $550 with a U.S. retail price of $440. If EF is your thing, you will need an additional $36 for most vendors (MSRP $595/Retail $476). Not only is this the first model to come with the EF surcharge in the USA, it also has an MSRP that is $75 more than last year’s M605 White-Transparent resulting in a $60 higher sticker price at the sales counter. The best deals for those of us in the USA continue to be found overseas where the same pen can be had for a retail of around $300 to $350 depending on the vendor. You sacrifice domestic warranty support by going this route but the savings, in my opinion, far exceed the value of anything Chartpak offers. Besides, most reputable overseas retailers are only too happy to provide after sales service. I don’t think that a model with an EF nib is a good value and have consequently stopped buying EF, my preferred nib size. I would rather take that surcharge and invest it into a custom grind rather than a stock nib. As for the F, M, and B equipped models, keep in mind that $440 is roughly the same price you can pick up a new M800 for from overseas. That leads me to conclude that this is not as good a value as past releases, particularly when shopping in the USA.
Conclusion – A nice pen with striking colors that is hobbled by certain design elements and pricing
M600 Vibrant Orange: 49/60 or 82%
The M600 Vibrant Orange is a bit of a mixed bag in my estimation. The awesome orange coloration with bands of exquisite pearl essence provide the pen with an amazing level of depth and complexity. The finish is not consistent throughout though and the detractors, namely the duller bands and black piston knob, could give some pause. The next hurdle is the price which can be faulted at multiple points. Put these two things together and it makes the Vibrant Orange not quite the “must have” that I initially anticipated it being. I think this will scratch an itch for a lot of people out there, particularly those who were enamored of the M320 fourteen years ago. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the pen itself and I am happy to have added it to my flock. In the end, you will have to make up your own mind about what is important to you. I hope that I have at least been able to show you both the good and bad that comes with this one so that you can make an informed decision. Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.
- The vibrant portion of the barrel and cap really stand out, especially in good lighting
- It’s an M600! A welcomed new addition to a line that sometimes feels neglected
- The transparency of the barrel allows you to easily determine the remaining amount of ink in the pen
- An inconsistent appearance to the finish and a standout black piston knob take away from the overall aesthetic
- Pelikan has extended the EF nib surcharge to the USA where pens are already more expensive than elsewhere
- The Vibrant Orange is more expensive than its predecessors regardless of nib size
A Look At The Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange
Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange 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.