Few pens in recent memory have generated more excitement or buzz than the newly released M605 Tortoiseshell-Black. Part of that elation comes from the fact that the design is a refreshing new take on an old favorite. Never before have we seen the classic tortoise finish, a style that goes back decades, executed in this fashion. That fresh coat of paint is a welcome disruptor and honestly makes the M6xx series one of the more active and exciting Souverän lines in production today. Looks aside, there are some features that are less endearing, chief amongst those being the lack of a dedicated ink view. The M6xx also sits in a precarious position, too big for those that like smaller pens and too small for people that like to play with the big boys, à la the M800. Still, the M6xx does hit the sweet spot for countless Pelikan aficionados. The Tortoiseshell-Black will join the ultra-rare M600 Tortoiseshell-Brown (1999), the M600 Tortoiseshell-White (2012), and the M600 Tortoiseshell-Red (2020). It should not go unnoticed that this latest tortoise is the only x05 release across any line to wear the tortoise coat. The palladium plated trim is very complimentary to the palette of colors embodied within the barrel’s stripes but, I can’t help feeling that something is just slightly amiss with this one. Something about this tortoise finish is maybe not quite as captivating as some of the others that we have seen. Read on to learn about all of the nuances of the M605 Tortoiseshell-Black and find out if this is one you should rush to add to your flock.
- Appearance & Design (8/10) – The pearlescent stripes are beautiful and unlike any other tortoise, skewing towards very cool undertones
The first thing worth pointing out is that the M605 is one of the first releases to come with the new G30 presentation box. The packaging consists of an outer box giving way to an inner box with a magnetic lid closure. Flipping that open reveals a white sleeve with the Pelikan logo stamped alongside resting on top of a tray which pulls out to reveal the instruction and warranty booklet beneath. It’s a mature and subtle evolution of the prior G15 gift box and makes for an unassuming presentation. Pulling the pen out of the sleeve reveals a tortoise unlike any other. First and foremost, this is the only modern tortoise to feature black resin for the piston knob, section, and cap. The furniture consists of a trim ring at the section, two trim rings at the piston knob, two cap bands, a beak clip, and a plated cap top featuring the company’s single chick logo, all plated in palladium imparting a silver colored appearance. The cap bands are of varying widths, the larger one bearing the stamp, “Pelikan Souverän Germany.” That’s all pretty standard fare for a Souverän. Where this M605 distinguishes itself is the barrel and I think that the pre-release photos actually did a decent job portraying this one. Pearlescent stripes with varying hues of blues and grays alternate with thinner strips of black. Those black stripes are a bit thicker than what we’ve seen on some other models like the Stresemann for instance. The stripes capture the light well which is where the pen really stands out. It has a Radenesque appearance reminiscent of pens like the M805 Raden Royal Platinum (2018). The effect is sure to appeal to a great many, particularly for those seeking that Raden look at celluloid prices. My only quibble, which I fully expect to be an unpopular opinion, is that I find the blue-gray hues tend to be just a little muddier and dull than I would like, and I can’t help but wish they were a little brighter in order to liven up the overall look. The cool tones are essentially a 180 from every other tortoise that we’ve seen released to date. Somewhat marring the pen’s appearance are random, thick strips of near blackness which breaks up the pattern in an asymmetric and slightly jarring way. We’ve seen this with other releases so it’s not surprising to find it here as well, and I presume that this is just how the material is manufactured. Some pens may be affected more than others, but you can be certain that each pen will have a unique finish. The barrel is fairly opaque and lacks any translucence. Even holding the pen against a strong light does little to reveal the inner workings but this is now expected from Pelikan these days. When all is said and done, the appearance is beautiful and sure to please but just not quite as beguiling as I would have liked.
Pelikan’s M605 Tortoiseshell-Black shown atop the new G30 presentation box
Pelikan’s G30 presentation box
The varying appearance of the Tortoiseshell-Black’s barrel. Note the darker bands that intermittently appear between the blue-gray stripes
The stripes of the Tortoiseshell-Black have an almost Raden-like appearance. Left to right: M800 Raden Royal Gold (2017), M605 Tortoiseshell-Black (2022), and the M805 Raden Royal Platinum (2018)
- Construction & Quality (9/10) – A quality product that is clearly built to last
The M605 Tortoiseshell-Black is solidly built through and through. The design is seamless, and all of the components demonstrate a quality fit and finish. The piston knob snugs securely to the back of the barrel when retracted and the cap post securely for those that prefer to do so. Like most Pelikans, the pen can be uncapped with just 3/4 of a turn which allows one to quickly get down to the business of writing. Despite this, the pen resists coming undone in the pocket which provides peace of mind if that’s how you carry your pens. There is always the risk of corrosion developing on the trim ring at the section, particularly when exposed to more caustic inks over a prolonged period. You can see examples of this on older models from the 1990s, but it should not be a concern of any immediacy. Good pen hygiene should negate this issue to nothing more than an afterthought. At the moment, the Tortoiseshell-Black seems to be free of any quality concerns and should provide decades of reliable service with normal use.
A look at the M605 Tortoiseshell-Black (2022) compared with the M605 Stresemann (2019)
- Weight & Dimensions (10/10) – A medium sized model perfect for most use cases
The M6xx line sits within a somewhat awkward niche. It is neither a small pen nor a particularly large one. Despite its middling size, it frequently disappoints those who prefer the larger M800 and runs just a tad too big for those who routinely reach for an M400. Because of its size, however, it tucks neatly into most standard shirt pockets as well as most cases providing versatility and making transport a non-issue. Its light weight makes it a very comfortable writer and unlikely to induce any fatigue, even with prolonged writing sessions. Still, it will feel far too light for those that prefer a heftier pen. The pen balances well when posted but fits nicely into the hand even without posting. For those that like specs, the M605 measures approximately 5.28 inches when capped, 6.10 inches when posted, and has a diameter of 0.49 inches. It weights 0.57 ounces, just a few ounces more than your typical AAA battery.
- Nib & Performance (8/10) – Always wet and ready to write thanks to a generous feed
The M605 Tortoiseshell-Black comes with a 14C-585 gold nib that is entirely plated in rhodium to impart a silver appearance which fits in well with the rest of the pen’s looks. Available nib widths include the standard assortment of EF, F, M, and B. The nib is nothing if not dependable, ready to write even when left unattended for a prolonged period. This likely owes to the wet and generous feed. The nib puts down a solid line of ink that is relatively true to its designation (e.g. fine does a good job of approximating the expected width of a western fine nib). Be aware that the lines will run broader than similar widths found on many of the Japanese makes. The modern Pelikan nibs are devoid of any inherent line variation so the writing experience should be similar, no matter what size you choose. The top of the nib is stamped with the typical scrollwork and logo of the Souverän which makes for an attractive design. I purchased a fine nib which came well aligned out of the box and free of any hard starts or skipping. That admittedly may not be everyone’s experience, so it never hurts to ask your preferred vendor to check the nib over prior to shipping. Of course, Pelikan’s nibs lend themselves nicely to custom grinds should you wish for something a bit more exciting. One final point regarding the nib is the interchangeability, a longtime hallmark of the Pelikan brand. The nibs can be removed and replaced at will in the event of damage, a desired swap, or even for the infrequent lubrication of the piston. It should not be undertaken lightly due to the potential for disaster but it’s a gratifying option to have none the less.
Filling System & Maintenance (10/10) – Quick to fill, easy to maintain, but no ink view in sight
The M605 Tortoiseshell-Black features Pelikan’s standard piston filling mechanism. For the M6xx line, that is a plastic assembly which is snap fit into the barrel. That means it is not easily removed and any attempts to do has the potential to damage the pen. That inability to remove the piston bothers some but I see it as mostly a non-issue since there is little to no occasion to ever legitimately do so. All of the pen’s limited maintenance needs, short of a failed seal, can be easily accomplished through the section. With proper lubrication, the piston assembly smoothly travels the length of the barrel and fills the pen nearly full with just a single cycle of the piston. The M605 holds approximately 1.30mL of ink which should fill a decent number of pages depending on your ink/paper/nib combo. Unfortunately, there is no ink window on this model and the stripes lack any meaningful translucence. Holding the pen up to a strong light does give a hint about the remaining ink in the pen but this is far from an ideal or desired solution. This now splits the field, giving us two M6xx tortoises with ink view solutions and two without. This may or may not be a gripe for you, but it is certainly disappointing when Pelikan’s entire fountain pen heritage was built upon the transparent ink view. The filling mechanism allows for easy flushing in order to facilitate storage or the swapping of ink colors. When the piston does get stiff, the tiniest drop of pure silicone grease along the inside of the barrel can get things going again. Depending on your usage habits, this becomes necessary perhaps every few years and is easily accomplished thanks to the removable nib. The new Tortoiseshell-Black Souverän’s piston filling system should provide a low maintenance, hassle free experience for years of writing.
Cost & Value (7/10) – The best pricing continues to be found overseas
The newest M605 runs into the same issue that we’ve become accustomed too, namely the large discrepancy in pricing between the USA and Europe. The US MSRP is $690 which is actually a $30 reduction over last year’s Green-White model. With the standard 20% deduction, that gives this M605 a retail price of $552. A similar minor reduction was also seen in Europe where the RRP is €430 (~$452.36). For non-EU consumers, these can be had for a retail price of €307.14 (~$323.11) from certain vendors when the VAT is excluded. That makes the Tortoiseshell-Black nearly $229 cheaper when sourced abroad, a savings which is hard to overlook. The persistent regional disparity in pricing will continue to mar the cost vs value assessment but it is somewhat heartening to see the MSRP reduced from prior models, even if only slightly so. If the cool tones of this unique tortoise appeal to you, then your best value will come from shopping abroad. I would encourage you to shop local and support our domestic vendors whenever possible if you have the means and the inclination. There are seemingly so few left today, and they don’t have an easy go of it, having to compete in the skewed global market.
- Conclusion – A new look for the tortoise with just a few downsides
M605 Tortoiseshell-Black: 52/60 or 86.6%
The M605 Tortoiseshell-Black breaks new ground and that is always exciting. I think that this is one of those models that will either appeal or not, depending on your aesthetic sensibilities. The warmth of prior tortoises is abandoned for a much cooler look, further accentuated by the palladium plating of the furniture. The lack of an ink view window and the middle of the road sizing will be major detractors for some but most of the quibbles are minor. Obviously, those on the fence might be swayed by the more advantageous pricing found abroad. Looks aside, what is certain is that this Souverän will likely go on to provide decades of trustworthy service.
The M6xx family of tortoises (post-1997 models). Left to right: M600 Tortoiseshell-Brown (1999), M600 Tortoiseshell-White (2012), M600 Tortoiseshell-Red (2020), and M605 Tortoiseshell-Black (2022)
- An original finish that features a wonderful pearlescence when viewed in good lighting
- A wet and generous feed that resists drying out and is always ready to write
- Hassle free maintenance thanks to the piston assembly and removable nib
- A lighter pen that is well balanced in the hand and comfortable to use either posted or not
- There is no easy way to view the remaining amount of ink in the pen
- The blue gray stripes are just a little too muddy and dull
- There are random stripes of black that mar the overall look
- Domestic pricing in the US remains hundreds of dollars above foreign offerings
A Look At The Pelikan M605 Tortoiseshell-Black
Pelikan M605 Tortoiseshell-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.