Pelikan has enjoyed a long and storied history of pen production. For this post, I’d like to focus on what may well be characterized as a bit of an oddity in the Pelikan line-up. The P1 was introduced in September of 1958 and enjoyed only a short production run ending sometime in 1963, presumably due to poor sales. The ‘P’ designation stands out as unusual here because this more commonly denotes a patronen-füller or cartridge pen but the P1 is in fact a piston filled fountain pen. This model was available as both Silvexa (P1S) and Rolled Gold (P1RG) variants. It came at a time when hooded nibs were en vogue and seemed to serve as Pelikan’s answer to the phenomenon. That said, Pelikan’s foray came much later than most other companies since pens like Parker’s 51 & 61, Aurora’s 88, Lamy’s 27, and Waterman’s C/F had already been on the market for some time. Until the introduction of the P1, Pelikan had been producing pens like the venerable 140 and 400, making the P1 a significant departure in design. Be that as it may, many people have shown much affection for the P1 and I felt a bit of a historical overview and review were in order as the P1 slowly creeps up on its diamond jubilee.
Pelikan’s first foray into the school pen market was the 120 released in the mid 1950’s. Prior to that, their focus had been on writing implements designed almost exclusively for adults. After five years of experience in that market, Pelikan began production of the first Pelikano model which was launched on March 22, 1960. The Pelikano’s design was based on lessons learned from the 120 as well as the feedback they received from teachers. The model line is now 57 years old and it shows no signs of slowing down. The Pelikano has undergone many design changes over its nearly six decades in addition to spawning other products such as the Pelikano Junior. The most recent version of the Pelikano has been the P480, first released in 2010 as a significant redesign to the prior P460 and updated again in 2015. The current P480 has an opaque rather than transparent grip and an ink view window on its barrel, distinguishing it from its predecessor. Pelikan appears to be adding an upgraded version of the Pelikano to the line-up. Made from better materials and with a more adult design, their newest creation has been dubbed the Pelikano Up fountain pen.
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.
In the course of monitoring my usual sources of Pelikan news, I came across an interesting post in my Instagram feed today. Çelik Kalem, whose Turkish name translates to “Steel Pen,” gave us a photo of what appears to be the next release in the M101N series. From what I can gather, Çelik Kalem is a family run company who serves as a major distributor for Pelikan pens in Turkey and would likely be positioned to have foreknowledge of upcoming models. Pelikan will soon announce the fourth pen in their series of modern M101Ns slated for release sometime later this year. The pen is the M101N Bright Red. This model will follow the previously released Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), Lizard (2012), and Tortoiseshell Red (2014). It would be the first in the series to break from emulating their vintage counterparts. To date, all of the prior models on the market have keyed off of their predecessor’s designs from the late 1930s. I cannot recall a 101N ever having been released with this color scheme. Pelikan’s description of this model carries the tag line, “Intense luminosity and a unique presence.”
As we embark on a new year, I thought it would be fitting to look back and reminisce about the products that Pelikan brought to market in 2016. Many of those releases were rumored late in 2015 and most turned out to be true. That doesn’t mean Pelikan didn’t show up with a few surprises along the way. Pelikan, like most companies, is not a fan of pre-release spoilers so I doubt we’ll see the treasure trove of leaked models that became available at the end of 2015. I suspect that the company has since reminded their vendors of their contractual obligation to not leak info of upcoming releases. While we may not know what the future holds, we can look back and see that the last few years have witnessed a lot of interesting new designs as well as re-releases of fan favorites. I think Pelikan has overall struck a good balance though the M600 and M1000 lines continue to see the least amount of attention of any of the Souverän models. While there was a lot to like this past year, not all news was good news. 2016 saw significant price increases in the United States market, well above and beyond the rest of the world and pricing for UK customers rose due to Brexit and the weakening pound against the Dollar and Euro. The U.S. distributor, Chartpak, reversed previously stated policy and began refusing warranty services to US owners of Pelikan fountain pens purchased from overseas retailers despite those vendors being authorized by Pelikan. This was most likely done in an attempt to deter people from shopping overseas where Pelikan fountain pens can be purchased at a steep discount. Read on to get caught up on anything you may have missed this past year.
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.