In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany and John F. Young opened Tiffany & Young with a $1,000 loan from Mr. Tiffany’s father. That store was located in New York and sold stationery and other luxury goods such as costume jewelry. In 1841 Mr. Tiffany and Mr. Young took on another partner, J. L. Ellis, and the store became Tiffany, Young & Ellis. The name Tiffany & Company was adopted in 1853 when Charles Tiffany bought out his partners and took control. As the company’s sole lead, he established the firm’s emphasis on jewelry and developed a tradition of introducing designs that captured the mood of contemporary fashion and defined American luxury. The company has had its share of ups and downs throughout its history, particularly suffering from the effects of the stock market crash in the 1930s. Over the years and under various mantles of leadership, the company’s fortunes rebounded, making it the multi-million dollar company that it is today. Perhaps best known for its stunning jewelry, Tiffany & Co. has crafted many branded goods over the years. In the early 1990s, approximately 1/4 of those goods were made by the company itself. The balance was produced under contract by other manufacturers. Pelikan was one of those manufacturers, producing the M817 and M818 Atlas series of pens for Tiffany & Co.
Pelikan has been manufacturing a variety of goods since 1838 and almost all of those products have been backed by advertising of one form or another. Consequently, Pelikan has produced a tremendous amount of ephemera, enough to keep a collector busy for a lifetime. I invite anyone interested to check out “Pelikan – The Brand” by Detmar Schäfer and “Deutsche Werbegeschichte – Am Beispiel Günther Wagner – Pelikan” by Heinz Rings for fascinating accounts of Pelikan’s advertising over their nearly 180 year history. Pelikan has employed various displays to draw attention to their products in order to make a sale. One such display has always captured my imagination and, to me, is the epitome of Pelikan advertising. Since the 1930s, the company has been creating figurines in the form of a pelican in support of its fountain pen sales. These are usually made of ceramic but have been crafted from other materials over the years. The initial versions were a cadmium yellow and promoted sales of the model 100. Designed for display in shopkeeper’s windows, the figurines have attracted a following and have become quite collectible. The older pieces are incredibly difficult to come by but there have been more recent versions that were released to German dealers after the M400’s introduction in the 1980s. These pieces can be found a bit more commonly, most often in white or cobalt blue. It is a lesser known fact that these figurines enjoyed a much larger variety of color which is what I wish to share with you today.
Today’s post will explore the Pelikan M700 family of fountain pens. This is a particularly interesting and unique series as it includes two Toledo models as well as several others plated with various metals. The M7xx pens have the same dimensions as the M400 though with some added heft due to their metal construction. The five pens that comprise this line are the M700 Toledo, M710 Toledo, M730, M750, and M760. Most of these models were made in the 1980s and 1990s though some have been produced more recently. As far as Pelikan pens go, these five are amongst some of my favorites for reasons which I hope will be clear by the end of this post. They are not without their shortcomings, however, as I will try to point out. Most of these pens are now out of production and some are quite hard to find. Many will command a premium price if you do happen to stumble across one that’s for sale. Read on to learn a bit more about the idiosyncrasies of each of these models.
Chronoswiss, founded by Gerd-Rüdiger Lang in 1983, is a mechanical watch manufacturer currently based out of Lucerne. Mr. Lang spent several years leaning his trade as an apprentice before finding employment with Heuer (now TAG-Heuer) where he would work with chronographs for approximately 15 years. Quartz movements came to dominate in the 1980s prompting Mr. Lang to seek opportunity elsewhere. After his departure, he attended school in Würzburg and graduated as a “Master Watchmaker.” Shortly thereafter, he founded his own company which specialized in mechanical watches during a time when quartz was all the rage. It wasn’t until 1987 that the “Régulateur,” a hand-wound wristwatch, was born. It was touted as the first serially manufactured wristwatch with a regulator-type dial. It is the characteristics of this watch that would go on to define the company’s iconic style. Those features include a screwed and channeled bezel, an onion-shaped crown, and screwed strap lugs. While not as historically rich as many of the traditional brands, the Régulateur would help cement Chronoswiss’s place in horology.
Pens have a ubiquitous presence in our environment which makes them well suited as promotional items. We’ve all seen pens with business names and logos inscribed upon them as a means of advertising. Sometimes the inscriptions are more meaningful and are intended to commemorate an event or recognize outstanding performance or participation. Pens also serve this purpose well because they are so useful in our day to day lives. We saw this with the Lagostina M150 where a company contracted with Pelikan to have a special, limited production pen made for exclusive distribution. In this example, the pen was created as a gift for the management of the Italian cookware company Lagostina during the early 1980s. In similar fashion, Pelikan has supplied pens to their employees on occasion to commemorate certain achievements or milestones. One such event was the 25th anniversary of the opening of the manufacturing plant at Peine-Vöhrum, Germany.
First released to the luxury market in 1931, the Pelikan T111 featured a steel binde (BIN-duh) hand engraved in the Damascene style, a technique imported to Toledo, Spain by the Arabs. Damascene artists traditionally decorate steel with threads of gold and silver to create beautiful, painstakingly crafted pieces. The Toledo models of today use a sterling silver binde rather than steel to which a thin layer of gold is applied. The technique that is used to produce the Toledo has changed very little over the past 85 years. Pelikan re-introduced the Toledo in 1986 with the M700, an M4xx sized pen depicting the classic Pelikan Toledo motif. Production has always been limited by the unique, hand crafted nature of each pen that rolls off of the line (Pelikan cites a quantity of just 200 pens produced per month). In 1991, Pelikan introduced the M900 Toledo, a pen with a similar design and motif but in the larger and heavier M8xx form factor and meant as a limited edition. The M900 was billed as “The Collectors’ Edition Toledo” in the United States and released as a run of just 500 pens earmarked specifically for the North American market (some accounts report an additional 500 pens made for sale overseas). Each North American pen came with a certificate declaring the rarity of the release. This exquisite model sold out quickly with many collectors being spurred into action by the limited and distinctive nature of such a release. The story might have ended there if it were not for Pelikan’s decision to re-release the M900 as a standard issue pen which has since enjoyed a lengthy production run.
One of Pelikan’s defining features is the iconic beak clip which has been around since the end of the second World War. If you have ever had occasion to look at the underside of a post-1997 production Souverän clip, you might have noticed a single word conspicuously struck into the material; “metal.” This can be found on the M/R/K/D 3xx, 4xx, 6xx, 8xx, and 10xx models. While the meaning behind the stamp may appear enigmatic at first, the truth of the matter is actually rather simple. Rest assured, this does not indicate a forgery of any kind. While Pelikan offers no official statement to explain this, the supposed meaning is well documented, particularly amongst those who work with precious metals and the hallmarks that go along with them. Across the world’s markets, there are regulations governing how precious and plated base metals are identified. When there is a base metal that is manufactured or processed to simulate the appearance of precious metal and whose alloy contains less than a specified karat fineness, the law mandates that a marking shall be applied to acknowledge the presence of a base metal. Different regions may vary in the fineness of gold that stipulates such a marking. The statue is that whenever practical, the word ‘metal’ or the name of the metal should be struck on the base metal part(s).
Pelikan’s M915 Hunting was a limited edition of just 3000 numbered pieces released in 1994. This was back in the early days of Pelikan’s limited edition releases, officially only preceded by the Blue Ocean (1993). This model was aimed at the community of hunters. The pen sports a sterling silver barrel overlay done in the Toledo style and portrays a classic motif. The scene is dominated by the depiction of a stag held at bay by two hunting dogs. As you pan around the barrel, you see representations of classic game animals such as pheasants, quail, wood grouse, and ducks taking flight. There is even a scene of a fox slinking away. This entire landscape is set within an oak-leaf border. The cap and piston knob are done in a shade of hunter green with a green lacquer used to fill in the areas between the engravings on the overlay. The nib is the standard two-toned 18C-750 gold seen on the M8xx line. All of this comes together to stunning effect when seen in person, regardless of what your stance on the sport of hunting is. Unfortunately, there are concerns about the durability of this finish that I wanted to share in case you own or have occasion to come across one of these.