Review: M800 Brown-Black (2019)

Pelikan M800 Brown-Black Fountain PenIt’s time for another review on The Perch and while I normally like to scrutinize models that are unique in some way, I’m taking a look at the M800 Brown-Black largely because of its seemingly similar appearance to a past release.  If you have had any experience with the Pelikan catalog over the past decade, you might find yourself drawing parallels between this new model and an old favorite.  The M800 Tortoiseshell-Brown (2013) quickly comes to mind as a special edition that also utilized stripes and brown resin components.  Pelikan’s product literature describes the Brown-Black like so;

“A graceful and subtle appearance.  That’s the look of the new Special Edition Souverän 800 Brown-Black.  The warm brown hue resin material of this writing instrument series is perfectly complimented by dark brown stripes.  The barrel with brown and black stripes is crafted out of high grade cellulose acetate which is then turned into a sleeve.  The rings and the clip are elegantly decorated with 24-carat gold.”

Is the Brown-Black something we’ve seen before or a new design unto itself?  I think that the best analogy I can put forth is that while it all may be chocolate it comes down to the difference between milk chocolate and dark chocolate.  Does the Brown-Black have enough going for it to stand on its own merits?  Read on to find out.

 

  1. Appearance & Design (8/10) – A warm appearance with lighter brown tones than we’ve seen in the past

The Brown-Black will generally come packaged in Pelikan’s G15 gift box, depending on the retailer, which consists of an outer box, an inner box, and a faux leather sleeve.  The packaging hasn’t changed much over the last several years but it still makes for an attractive presentation, particularly if you’re giving the pen as a gift.  The first thing that strikes me about this new M800 is the warm tone, particularly in good lighting, and lighting is the key here.  Look at it in a dimly lit room and it comes off as much darker and moodier.  The brown components on this one are not like what we have seen before.  Take the Tortoiseshell-Brown (2013) or Burnt Orange (2015) for instance.  Both have brown resin components that are so dark, they are oft mistaken for black unless seen in strong light or juxtaposed with a bit of true black.  That is not the case here where the brown is much lighter, almost creamy in appearance.  If you imagine the Tortoiseshell-Brown representing dark chocolate, the Brown-Black is pure milk chocolate and the difference is not subtle, particularly in strong lighting.  The brown stripes on the barrel give off a nearly golden glow and are offset nicely by the interspersed black lines which facilitate some much needed contrast.  Those stripes don’t have nearly the depth of the tortoise though which is obvious when seen side by side.  Beyond the resin components and barrel, you’ll find the same trim that adorns nearly every other M8xx model out there.  That includes two trim rings at the piston knob, two cap bands, a trim ring at the section, and a beak clip all plated in 24 carat gold.  The plated cap top displays Pelikan’s single chick logo and the cap band bares the inscription “Pelikan Souverän Germany.”  One major point to note is that the Brown-Black lacks a discrete ink view window which was a sore spot for many with pens like the Burnt Orange (2015) and the Stone Garden (2018).  The barrel does display some transparency when held against strong illumination such as a cell phone flash light, enough that you could gauge the remaining amount of ink in the pen, but that is an extra step many feel shouldn’t be necessary.  I don’t personally see this as a deal breaker but it certainly increases your odds of inadvertently running out of ink.

Pelikan G15 Gift Packaging

Pelikan’s G15 gift packaging includes a faux leather sleeve

 

Pelikan M800 Tortoiseshell Brown and Brown-Black Fountain Pens

Pelikan’s M800 Tortoiseshell Brown (2013) and Brown-Black (2019) fountain pens side by side. Note the difference in brown resins between the two as well as the variation in barrel patterns

 

Pelikan M800 Caps

50 shades of brown. Left to right: Caps from an M800 Green/Black, Tortoiseshell Brown, and Brown-Black. The caps are black, dark brown, and light brown respectively

 


  1. Construction & Quality (9/10) – Pelikan’s typical high level of craftsmanship on full display

I cannot find much to fault with regards to the construction of the Brown-Black.  Like any Souverän, the pen has a very polished appearance.  The resin components show no evidence of the production process.  The cellulose acetate used in making the barrel has some small variations which is normal but the look is overall uniform and the seam is well incorporated and not at all intrusive.   All of the pieces fit together tightly and the cap post securely.  Another important point about the cap is that it doesn’t threaten to come undone in the pocket.  I’ve seen some chatter recently about Pelikan caps unintentionally coming undone but that simply hasn’t been my experience.  Of course, just 3/4 of a turn gets the cap off so that the pen is ready to write.  The gold-plated trim ring at the section remains a feature here and therefore will continue to be at risk for corrosion, particularly if using caustic inks.  I personally find this a non-issue with proper ink selection and pen maintenance but it will certainly be a concern for some depending on your individual circumstances/pen habits.

Pelikan M800 Brown-Black Fountain Pen

 


  1. Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – Not for every hand but comfortable for the ones it fits

The Brown-Black has the same dimensions of just about every other M8xx model out there.  It measures 5.59 inches capped and 6.57 inches posted with a diameter of 0.52 inches.  Thanks to the extra weight of the brass piston assembly found on Pelikan’s M8xx models, the Brown-Black weighs in at 0.99 ounces.  The M800 size doesn’t suit everyone but for those hands that do accommodate this larger pen, the experience is an overall comfortable one.  I have never had any noticeable fatigue with prolonged use and don’t find the larger size at all unwieldy.  I also find the pen comfortable to use whether the cap is posted or not though posting is my personal preference.  I do struggle with the pen comfortably fitting in my shirt pocket which is my preferred method of carry but that is more of a problem for L.L. Bean than Pelikan.

Pelikan M800 Brown-Black Fountain Pen

 


  1. Nib & Performance (8/10) – A reliable writing experience that can shine with a  custom grind

The Brown-Black comes with Pelikan’s standard two toned 18C-750 gold nib.  I cannot directly review this one as a factory option due to opting for pre-purchase customization.  In general, Pelikan’s factory nibs lay down a generous line of ink that lacks any inherent variation and their feeds do an excellent job of resisting drying out.  The rating for this section represents my impression of the average performance of Pelikan’s newer M8xx stock nibs.  I purchased my pen from Fritz-Schimpf who were unable to fulfill my request for one of the new BB nibs at the time of purchase.  Instead, I opted for a factory B nib with their custom Fritz-Schimpf italic grind and am quite pleased to have done so.  The nib makes broad down strokes and very thin cross stokes which lack any tooth resulting in a very smooth writing experience, making the pen a pleasure to use.  I would rate this custom nib a 10/10 and I recommend looking into the option should you have occasion to purchase a pen from their establishment.

Pelikan M800 Brown-Black Fountain Pen Nib

An 18C-750 B nib with a custom Fritz-Schimpf Italic grind

 


  1. Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – Easy to fill, easy to clean, and easy to maintain

Pelikan’s differential piston mechanism continues to impress with its ease of filling.  With just a single cycle of the piston knob the pen almost completely fills to its capacity of 1.35mLs.  There is no play in the assembly when retracted and the piston knob snugs securely to the barrel.  Pelikan’s design continues to easily facilitate intermittent maintenance which usually includes nothing more than the occasional lubrication of the piston assembly.  This is accomplished by unscrewing the nib and applying a very tiny drop of pure silicone grease to the inside of the barrel, something that might be necessary once every few years depending on your usage pattern.  As I’ve previously pointed out, the piston assembly of the M8xx models is screwed into the barrel which means that it can be removed if necessary though I continue to strongly caution against this as it is rarely necessary and should not be done as a part of routine pen maintenance.

 


  1. Cost & Value (8/10) – A handsome brown pen with a big price tag

The M800 Brown-Black has a U.S. MSRP of $795, a modest increase over other recent releases.  That equates to an average U.S. retail price of $636 before any special offers or discounts.  If shopping overseas the price is significantly more attractive to U.S. buyers at around €352.94 ($388.90 excluding VAT).  That nearly $250 in savings comes with caveats such as a lack of domestic warranty support and, perhaps more importantly, it takes business away from local vendors.  Whether or not this pen delivers enough value to justify its price tag will be up to the individual buyer.  For the money, you are getting a handsome and dependable writer but nothing that is particularly exotic.  If you are in the market, I’d recommend shopping around for this one to be sure that you’re getting the best price possible.

Pelikan M800 Pens

Left to right: M800 Green/Black (2005-10), Tortoiseshell Brown (2013), Brown-Black (2019), and Burnt Orange (2015).  Recall that I said the look of the resin has everything to do with the lighting

 

 

Conclusion – A lighter brown than we’ve seen before but nothing overly intriguing here

  • M800 Brown-Black: 52/60 or 87%

The M800 Brown-Black should be a welcome addition to the flock for those who love brown pens.  It brings a lighter brown resin to the line than what we have previously seen and the overall look is very warm and inviting.  The Brown-Black has more of a one note look, lacking the richness that the tortoiseshell finish embodies.  The reddish/orange hues of the tortoise add a depth that the brown black can only aspire to.  Still, if you missed out on the tortoise, are a big fan of brown pens in general, and can get past the lack of an ink view window, this may be the one for you.  I acknowledge that perhaps it’s not fair to hold this model up to the tortoise since it’s not trying to compete with its older sibling but it’s hard not to.  If the finish of the Brown-Black is appealing and you can find it for the right price, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this one.  I guess my biggest gripe is that it just doesn’t titillate like some other releases have.

 

PROS

  • A much lighter brown tone for those that found the prior releases too dark
  • High quality construction that is without obvious fault
  • Pelikan’s removable nib facilitates easy maintenance
  • A piston filling mechanism that continues to lead in its class

CONS

  • The Brown-Black lacks a discrete ink view window which is a major deal breaker for some
  • The factory nib options have expanded but many retailers were still only able to offer the standard assortment for this one
  • The plated ring at the section remains prone to corrosion over time

 

A Look At The Pelikan M800 Brown-Black
Pelikan M800 Brown-Black 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.

14 responses

  1. Thanks, as always, for your review of this new pen. I’ve really come to depend on you for news about the latest Pelikan release! I’ve noticed your comments before about the trim rings being vulnerable to corrosion if one uses corrosive inks. Are you willing to name the particular brands/types of ink that can cause this problem?

    Like

    • You’re welcome. I play it safe when it comes to ink so I don’t encounter this myself and don’t have an exhaustive list of offenders. I suppose any ink if left to sit on the trim for a prolonged period could pose some risk. I think the boutique brands for lack of a better word might carry some higher risks but its all relative and I’m certainly not looking to cast shade on any brand in particular. I think, as a rule, the more exotic the ink, the higher the risk but, as I said, much of that risk can be mitigated with good pen maintenance. Still, we are seeing older models from the 80s and 90s turning up for sale from time to time with corroded section rings so the risk is real.

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  2. Joshua, Thank you as always for a great review of what I think is a beautiful pen but I confess to being a brown pen lover. The US price is certainly on the steep side and $250 additional is a lot of money for a warranty that I have never needed with a Pelikan product, but as you say it is tough on the US merchants to be that much higher. I think with some well thought out shopping that one of these will join my flock. Thanks again for your fine review.

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  3. Thanks for the review and side-by-side photos, Joshua. On a personal note, I opted to wait for my pen with a BB nib. I will have it ground to CI. I was unaware of Fritz’s nib grinding option before, but will now keep it in mind.

    Also, I am fond of brown pens and not especially in need of titillation. I do wish Pelikan produced pens with the bindes that graced their green and brown tortoise shell pens like the 400NN. (We won’t even start on those wonderful nibs!)

    Happy writing!

    David

    Like

    • It’s a shame that they didn’t have the BB nibs ready for launch. My plan was the same as yours but I’m happy with how the B turned out with the custom grind. Definitely keep the Fritz-Shimpf option in mind for the future. I’m certainly not disappointed. I get tired of brown pens after a while which is why models like the Gold Marbled and the Star Ruby seemed so disruptive and exciting. This is a solid pen though. Enjoy.

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  4. “I do struggle with the pen comfortably fitting in my shirt pocket which is my preferred method of carry but that is more of a problem for L.L. Bean than Pelikan.”

    There should be a thread at FPN or some other pen board that lists men’s shirt brands with pen friendly front pockets. Is there one? It can be hard these days to find shirts that comfortably fit anything larger than an M200/M400.

    Like

    • I’d be in for that but I’m sure that there is a lot of regional variation. I don’t have a problem with most true dress shirts but I find L.L. Bean is great for an M1xx-M6xx but struggles with an M8xx. Don’t even think about an M1xxx. I think it might look odd if I went shopping with a Pelikan and checked the pockets before I tried on the shirt.

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      • I don’t think there would be anything odd about that at all. 😉 Posting this more to say great job with the Appelboom YT video. You absolutely had to include that fourth pen. To not have a green stripe bird seems unthinkable.

        Like

        • Those were my thoughts as well (about including the fourth pen). I think that it went over well. I’m glad that you enjoyed the video. It was something different for me. I’m not used to being in front of the camera.

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  5. Great review as ever, thank you! I may have to pick up an M800 one day, but I don’t think this is the one. It’ll have to be something pretty special to make me put THAT much of a dent in my bank balance.

    Like

    • Bronze is a good characterization for the look. This is indeed a Special Edition as far as I’m aware and not intended to enter the standard line-up. Once its gone, its gone. I hope that helps.

      Like

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