Pelikan has introduced over 40 different nib widths and styles during their 90 years of fountain pen production. Time and market forces have slowly taken their toll, whittling away at the available variety and eroding character. Around the year 2012, Pelikan discontinued production of oblique nibs in the widths of OM, OB, OBB, and O3B. The following year, the larger BB and 3B nibs were also removed from the standard line-up. Correspondence from representatives of the company around that time cited low global sales as justification for the discontinuation. For the past six years, Pelikan’s fine writing instruments could only be purchased with nibs in the standard widths of EF, F, M, and B. There have been exceptions to this rule as seen with the intermittent availability of an IB (italic broad) nib option or Niche Pens batch of M8xx BB nibs first offered in 2015. Neither option has been widely available or part of the standard line-up. Many have lamented Pelikan’s lack of variety, particularly as other manufacturers have continued to offer a significantly wider array of nibs. One such example of innovation in the nib space that comes to mind is Montblanc’s Meisterstück Solitaire or 149 fountain pens equipped with a flexible 18C-750 gold calligraphy “expression” nib which can reportedly vary line widths from about 0.3 mm to 1.6 mm. These calligraphy pens buck the familiar trend of hard as nails nibs, capitalizing on a maturing market of enthusiast looking for modern day flex writing pens. While Pelikan has yet to venture into that space, we’ve recently learned, courtesy of Appelboom, that they are re-introducing IB and BB nibs, adding them to the standard line-up on a restricted basis. Read on to learn more about the reincarnation of these older nibs as well as a few other tidbits.
September is usually good for news of a new release (or two) from Pelikan and 2019 proves to be no exception. History has taught us that this is the month some of the bigger birds get unveiled. Last year, it was the M800 Stone Garden. This year, we have the M800 Brown-Black Souverän fountain pen. The newest special edition out of Hannover sports a brown and black striped barrel with a very warm tone, an appearance that could easily be mistaken for a Tortoiseshell design upon first glance. Those who were excited by Pelikan’s use of sparkles in the forthcoming M200 Star Ruby may be disappointed by the more conservative Brown-Black. As best I can recollect, this is the first traditionally striped pattern to grace the M8xx line since 2014’s Stresemann. Availability is anticipated starting sometime in mid-October.
It isn’t easy deciding which pens to review here on The Perch. I like to focus on those pieces that bring something new to the table or tell a story. I mean, there is only so much you can say about another M800 with a different color scheme. That line of thinking is what lead me to today’s review. The recently released King Michael fountain pen stands out as unique in Pelikan’s catalog for a couple of reasons. The official name of this model is the King Michael I of Romania – Royal Edition and was only sold through Herlitz in Romania making this an ultra-exclusive regional edition that was not available through the usual retail channels. In fact, acquiring one required registration on the web, being selected, and then facilitating payment via a direct bank transfer. Honoring King Michael I (10/25/1921 – 12/5/2017), the last king of Romania, this edition is limited to just 300 pieces. While the underlying bones are clearly recognizable as those of a standard M800, this model incorporates a few design elements not previously seen. That allows this edition to stand out as an example of what good can come from local distributors partnering with the company to put out a unique product. While the opportunity to own one has largely passed at this juncture, I think that this pen is worthy of a closer look.
When you dig back through Pelikan’s long and storied history of pen making, you can find all sorts of odd editions made for local markets or done by regional distributors. Some of those models came from company sanctioned production runs while others had a more dubious genesis. The M800 Laser (2000) comes to mind as a good example of a strictly regional release. The Laser was an exclusive limited edition of only 100 pens which were specially engraved by Visconti and authorized by Pelikan Milan. This pen was made only for the Italian market, but it was not warmly welcomed in Hannover resulting in several being destroyed but that is a story for another day. My point is that it has been some time since we’ve seen a truly regional release from Pelikan which is why May 30th will be a stand out day in the company’s history. On that day, Pelikan Romania unveiled a new fountain pen titled “King Michael I of Romania – Royal Edition.” This model is not like many of the other Souveräns that we’ve seen and its unveiling was met with much more ceremony than we’ve been accustomed to. Read on to learn more about this neat and ultra-limited edition.
In my review of this year’s Stone Garden M800, I included a picture of the Nord/LB limited edition which generated a few inquiries. Given the history behind the Nord/LB and its somewhat obscure nature, I thought that the topic would be ripe for a post of its own. First off, this limited edition was designed at the request of the Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale. Somewhat unique to Germany, the Landesbanken are a group of state-owned banks that are regionally organized and predominantly focused on wholesale banking. Abbreviated Nord/LB, this North German bank was at one time counted amongst the top 10 banks in Germany and the top 100 banks in the world. As of 2016, the company’s total income was $2.3 billion with total assets of approximately $205 billion. It is a public corporation owned by the federal states of Lower Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt with headquarters in Hannover. Originally established in 1765 as the Braunschweigische Staatsbank, it began operating under its current name on July 1, 1970 following the merger of four predecessors. Nord/LB specializes in investment banking, agricultural and real estate banking, corporate finance, ship and aircraft financing, and private banking. In 1995, the company celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding. To mark the occasion, the firm’s board contracted with Pelikan in order to provide each of its employees at the time with a Limited Edition Souverän M800 fountain pen. The pen in question was never made available for purchase to the general public but several examples have entered into the collector’s space over the past 23 years.
The Perch may have been quiet recently but I assure you that it has not been idle. Almost a year’s worth of research on a very interesting topic is coming to a close and I hope to get it out into the wild in the coming weeks. For today’s post, I wanted to bring you something a little more timely because I know that a lot of people remain on the fence about this one. I’m referring to Pelikan’s recently released M800 Stone Garden. Pelikan’s pre-release photos continue to cause consternation amongst potential customers. In this case, the official marketing photos look more like a computer rendered image than an actual photograph. With so much of the decision to purchase a fountain pen relying on its visual appeal, inaccurate photos can result in significant buyer’s remorse. Sadly, that is just how many products are advertised today. Pelikan’s literature describes the pen as follows;
“Stone gardens are known for their serenity and peaceful effect. The new Special Edition Souverän 800 Stone Garden was created to be symbolic of this special place and the calming influence from life’s hectic everyday pace. The combination of opaque dark blue and the sophisticated marbled structure with blue and brown colors give a noble and elegant look to this series.”
While dark blues and browns are not the palette of most of the stone gardens that I have ever encountered, I’m willing to allow Pelikan some artistic license provided that the pen is able to bring something new to the table. It has been a very conservative and dichromatic year thus far for the bigger birds as seen with the M815 Metal Striped and the M805 Raden Royal Platinum. Read on to find out whether or not the Stone Garden can bring some much needed color to this year’s line up.
As anticipated, news broke early this morning across Europe regarding the next big release out of Hannover. All I can say is prepare to hear the sound of jaws dropping. Today we have the Pelikan M800 Stone Garden Special Edition and, if the product shots do it justice, it looks to be a gorgeous fountain pen. Of course, given the inconsistent track record of Pelikan’s product photography over the last several releases, we’ll have to reserve judgement until we can see some real world pictures. Still, there is a lot of promise here. This model follows closely on the heels of the M205 Olivine which just recently entered retail channels and the much more limited Raden Royal Platinum. The promotional literature for the Stone Garden states; “Rock gardens are known for their soothing effect. The new special edition Souverän M800 Stone Garden absorbs this atmosphere and offers tranquility in daily chores.” It is anticipated to be available around mid-October.
Fountain pens have been around since at least the 17th century and it stands to reason that the earliest variants likely adhered to the 20th century modernist architecture principle form follows function. This principle contends that the shape of an object should be based upon its intended purpose. I wonder how much time elapsed before pens started being embellished with unique styling and artistic sensibilities. There are some pens that are incredibly plain and while they may excel at what they do, they fail to ignite the senses. Others are so ornate and overblown that their artistry interferes with their function making for an all but useless show piece. Some pens are able to straddle the line between the two extremes and that is where Pelikan’s M800 Raden Royal Gold falls. With gold and black stripes reminiscent of a honey bee, the golden Raden finish married to the tried and true M800 chassis has resulted in an exceptional fine writing instrument, the likes of which haven’t been seen since a much more basic implementation on the now discontinued P3110 Ductus. Of course that is just my opinion but I hope to convince you of the same. The biggest argument against the design that I’ve heard is that this model has such a preponderance of gold that it makes for an overly ostentatious appearance (translation: too “blingy”). I can see why someone might feel that way but let me assure you that the use of gold here behind the mother of pearl overlay is not at all gratuitous. I always struggle with the utility of reviewing a pen made in such limited quantities and priced at such a luxury market price point. With only 388 people destined to enjoy the Raden Royal Gold, I decided to write this review in order to share the beauty and craftsmanship of this unique release with those who will never have the pleasure of owning this exquisite fine writing instrument.