Review: M101N Grey-Blue (2019)

Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue Fountain PenThe M101N takes its design queues from Pelikan’s historic models of the 1930s and 40s and the re-interpretation has, by all outward appearances, been a success for the company.  This modern line was first introduced in 2011 and has steadily grown since, now counting six models amongst its ranks.  Those include the Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), the Lizard (2012), the Lizard Jubilee Edition (2013), the Tortoiseshell Red (2014), and the Bright Red (2017).  The newest model, released just this year, is the Grey-Blue.  Like the Bright Red that came before, there does not appear to be a corresponding vintage 101N model with the exact same finish.  That’s not surprising since the original 101N line encompassed only a few different models.  Also, Pelikan defies the nomenclature of the past here with its choice of styling.  The 100Ns were characterized by black caps whereas the 101Ns had colored caps or caps that matched the pattern of the barrel.  By placing a black cap on the newest M101N, the company has blurred some of the conventions of old, conventions which had remained intact up until now.  Of this modern lot, it seems that the  Tortoiseshell Brown consistently gets the most attention, and for good reason.  The Grey-Blue is no slouch however and it is worth a look given the uniqueness of the finish.  Read on to find out more.

 

  1. Appearance & Design (8/10) – The most significant departure yet from the pen’s historic origins

The M101N arrives in a larger, square shaped gift box that includes a faux leather pen sleeve as well as a bottle of 4001 Royal Blue ink.  This is pretty standard fare for Pelikan and makes for a nice presentation, particularly if you intend to give the pen to someone as a gift.  In terms of overall styling, there is nothing here that you haven’t already seen before but it is put together in an appealing way.  The Grey-Blue sports palladium-plated double cap bands and a tear drop cap clip but is otherwise devoid of any additional trim.  I think the lack of embellishment when contrasted with the post-1997 Souverän line is one of the things about these models that really appeals to me.  The piston knob, cap, and section are done in a black resin and there is a smoke colored ink window that sits just behind the section.  The nib continues to be styled in a retro fashion similar to the vintage script nibs that were prevalent prior to 1954.  In this instance, the nib is rhodium plated to match the furniture.  The barrel is the heart of the pen which has a grey and blue marbled appearance.  The blue is much more subtle than I anticipated and it blends in well, complimenting the darker accents nicely.  There is a depth to the material and a certain pearl essence that shines through to good effect.  It certainly is a pretty pen but not an ostentatious one thereby allowing it to appeal to those with conservative sensibilities.  While I like the pen, I do not like the fact that Pelikan has broken from the traditional appearance and nomenclature of the 101N.  Perhaps a dark blue cap, piston knob, and section could have been employed, more in keeping with the styling of the vintage models.  Perhaps I’m just a stickler for tradition and need to accept and allow room for creative re-interpretation.  Regardless, the overall look is still appealing and worth checking out, particularly if the prior two releases which incorporated a lot of bright red were a bit too bold for your taste.

Pelikan M101N Gift Packaging

Pelikan M101N gift packaging which includes a bottle of 4001 Royal Blue ink

 

Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue Fountain Pen

 

Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue Fountain Pen

 


  1. Construction & Quality (10/10) – A daily workhorse without any construction qualms

The individual models of the M101N line, in general, have shown no issues functioning as daily work horses so I don’t expect the Grey-Blue to be any different.  In the time that I have had it, I have had no concerns as far as construction and quality goes.  Despite being light weight, it does not feel cheap and all of the assembled pieces have a good fit and finish.  The seams are highly polished leaving the pen with a clean look.  The piston travels smoothly and the cap secures firmly when posted.  I don’t see any issues with the Grey-Blue standing up to daily use though I wouldn’t want to make a habit of dropping it.

Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue Fountain Pen

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (8/10) – Despite being light weight, it’s a comfortable writer for sure

The M101N Grey-Blue has the same dimensions as the other models in the line and therefore should feel as familiar in the hand as any of the prior releases.  To recap, it is 4.84 inches capped, 6.22 inches posted, and weighs in at around 0.52 ounces.  The diameter is approximately 0.46 inches.  It is comfortable to use whether you post or not but I think the pen takes on a very pleasing size and is incredibly well-balanced when posted.  I have not had any issues when writing with the Grey-Blue for extended periods of time.  The smaller size when capped also makes it a perfect fit for the breast pocket of most shirts which is how I tend to carry my pens and therefore I find this to be a big plus.

Pelikan's M101N line of fountain pens

Pelikan’s M101N line of fountain pens. Left to right: Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), Lizard (2012), Tortoiseshell Red (2014), Bright Red (2017), and Grey-Blue (2019)

 


  1. Nib & Performance (7/10) – The feed resist drying out meaning the pen is always ready to write

The M101N Grey-Blue comes equipped with a monotone, rhodium plated 14C-585 gold nib.  As I stated above, the look harkens back to Pelikan’s pre-1954 nib design, the same design that we have seen on the other pens in the series.  Lacking the logo so common today, the nib bears a simple inscription composed of four stacked lines that read “Pelikan | 585 | 14 Karat | F.”  These are available in today’s standard sizes of EF, F, M, and B which is what the final line on the nib denotes.  The nib tends to put down a rather generous and wet line of ink thanks to the feed which really does an excellent job of keeping the pen ready to write.  I find that drying out when left uncapped or stored for prolonged periods to be essentially a non-issue.   There is something reassuring about a pen always being ready to fulfill its purpose and write.  The nib itself is smooth and, despite being a fine in my case, lacks any tooth.  My pen wrote well out of the box and did not need any adjustment which is consistent with my past experiences with the brand though I acknowledge that won’t be the case for everyone.  One issue that remains prevalent here is that the line from my fine nib, to my eyes at least, appears to be more of a medium width so you may want to order a nib size smaller than what you are targeting.  That means if you do want a truly fine line, you may have to pay Pelikan’s surcharge for an EF nib, something that most vendors are passing onto customers these days.  My advice would be to save the surcharge and invest that money in a custom nib grind that is almost certain to be more pleasing in the long run.  Not surprisingly, the factory nib lacks any real character and while you can’t fault it for lack of dependability, it doesn’t particularly inspire your writing either.  The nib is firm with maybe a hint of spring but really has nothing in the way of flex.  Overall, the nib does its job well which, in the end, is all we can probably ask for.

Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue Nib

Pelikan’s retro inspired M101N nib

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – Pelikan’s piston filling mechanism remains top of the heap

The Grey-Blue incorporates Pelikan’s long standing and little changed piston filling mechanism which is characterized by a smooth and consistent filling experience.  The piston travels smoothly in the barrel and you get nearly a full fill with just a single cycle making filling the pen quick and painless.  The piston mechanism of the M101N is also removable by virtue of being reverse threaded into the barrel should maintenance ever be required (there are only rare instances that should ever be necessary).  The nibs on the Grey-Blue continue to be user replaceable which remains a boon for the consumer.  The removable nib also allows for the occasional lubrication of the piston, the only infrequent maintenance these pens should ever need aside from the occasional cleaning.

Pelikan's M101N line of fountain pens

 


  1. Cost & Value (7/10) – A pricey pen with the option of steep savings abroad

The US MSRP for the Grey-Blue is $685 and therefore street pricing is around $548 when you take into account the standard 20% discount.  That is not too far off from what the Bright Red retailed for domestically two years ago but it is well above what US buyers can obtain these for from overseas.  European prices remain much more attractive to those of us within the U.S.A. with authorized retailers selling the M101N for as low as ~$375.  That is a significant savings at just over 30% though it comes with the caveat that Chartpak, the US distributor, will not honor the warranty or swap nibs on pens purchased abroad.  Still, given the excellent after sales service provided by many overseas retailers, Chartpak’s lack of support doesn’t make much of an impact in my mind.  Of course, that is something you have to determine for yourself.   The Grey-Blue doesn’t re-invent anything but what it does, it does well.  It may not stand out in a crowd but you may not want it to.  A dependable pen that looks good and is always ready to write is worth a reasonable sum.  I’m not sure that US prices makes this pen a worthy buy but I think the overseas savings could factor significantly into many purchase decisions.  The US market has always been held to higher prices across the board but I think that Pelikan is also relying on a core group of people who will buy the Grey-Blue just to complete the set.  It will be telling to see just how well these retain their value over time.

Pelikan's M101N line of fountain pens

 

Conclusion – A dependable writer that’s worth a second look if the price is right

  • M101N Grey-Blue: 50/60 or 83%

The M101N Grey-Blue is a reliable workhorse of a pen.  It writes well and has a very attractive marbled pattern on the barrel that never feels too ostentatious or out-of-place.  This pen is the epitome of German sensibility.  I don’t care for the fact that convention has been bucked but perhaps that’s just me being a stickler for the pen’s historic roots.  As I said above, many will buy this one simply to complete the set.  I think others will be swayed by the barrel’s subtle marbling or the silver colored trim, something we haven’t seen much of from this series.  I still believe that the Tortoiseshell Brown and Red releases remain my favorites but I am happy that the Grey-Blue will join them in my flock.

Pelikan's M101N line of fountain pens

Pelikan’s M101N line of fountain pens. Left to right: Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), Lizard (2012), Tortoiseshell Red (2014), Bright Red (2017), and Grey-Blue (2019)

PROS

  • Well built with the polished appearance you’d expect from a fine writing instrument
  • A reliable writer that is excellent at resisting drying out
  • Conservative looks that never feel out-of-place whether at work or at play

CONS

  • The black cap is a departure from the model’s historic origins
  • The standard nib sizes are boring and the EF nib carries a premium price
  • Retail pricing in the U.S.A. remains 30% higher than abroad

 

A Look At The Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue
Pelikan M101N Grey-Blue 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.

 

12 responses

  1. Another great review. I really like the color but do wish they had done the cap the same as the barrel or, like you said, a blue cap would have been nice too.

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  2. Great review. Thanks.

    Attractive pen and attractive line of pens. I’d be tempted if I had not limited myself to the Souveran line for collecting. Wondering what’s coming in the M8XX line this year…

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    • Thanks Scott. I’m anticipating an M8xx in the early fall. Haven’t seen any pics yet but, of course, I’ll post here as soon as I know anything.

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  3. I love mine. It is very silvery in person, more so than in photos. I like my bright red more than I used to since I inked it up with Sailor Irori ink. And, my brown tortoiseshell is undeniably the most gorgeous of the three. I really love this style of pen, and couldn’t pass up getting one with silver colored trim. (i have EF nibs on all three, one with a cursive italic grind and this new one with a stub.) Thank you for this thoughtful review!

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    • I had to look up Sailor Irori ink. Looks like an interesting color and a good pairing for the Bright Red. I agree that this style is one of the better series of releases that we’ve seen out of Hannover in recent times.

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  4. Thanks for the review. This model wasn’t even on my radar until I saw, and fell, for a Bright Red at the Chicago Pen Show that just had to come home with me. This review is so timely to help me learn more about this series.

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