I regularly get e-mails from readers about the style of pens and comments on the "good" or "poor" style of a particular pen. My reply reflects the common experience that style is in the eye of the beholder.
We all have scale, a measurement, with some design principles that drive our conclusion on whether a pen has good or poor style. Over the years in talking with others the clip, the size of the body, the shape of the pen in relation to the hand, the nib section where the fingers interact with the pen, these are many of the aspects that lead to the decision to acquire a pen. The overall perception of style is one of the driving forces in the decision to acquire a pen.
Style is linked with want as compared to "I need a pen".
Need, as a driving force, generally relates to the technical aspects of the pen: a fountain pen versus a roller ball or ball point, a disposable rather than a more permanent possession.
Want of a particular pen is highly influenced by the style and the perception of the value of the pen to the individual. It is not the need that drivers the purchase of a $400 or $500 pen. It is the perceived value - the want.
This line of thought applies to the purchase of modern pens, and would not apply to vintage pens where the purchase is to complete a collection of a line or type of pen.
Pen manufacturers and good retailers know this. I have talked with the leaders of some of the best pen companies and they all share the same goal: to produce pens that spark the purchaser to want the pen because of the perception of value to the individual. The style of the pen is a leading aspect.
In visiting pen stores over the man years I have seen lot of pens. In my mind, pens can be grouped into a few broad categories..
The largest is the classic group. Whether a cigar shape with the rounded top and bottom, or tubular shape which tend to have more squared off ends, there are plenty of variations in terms of the materials used, the colour and finish. There is almost an endless choice.
Within the classic group are thin, medium and larger or oversize pens. Within these there are traditional and contemporary designs.
Rotring and Lamy would be good examples of the contemporary design of pens. Lamy has won many awards for the designs of their pens. The Lamy 2000, pictured above, has all the hallmarks of a classic fountain pen with the sharpness of a stunning contemporary design.
The classic Montblanc, Parker Duofold, Waterman Exception or the Montegrappa Extra 1930, as shown to the right, are examples of what would be considered a traditional design within the classic group.
The pens can be made in a variety of materials, the Montegrappa Extra 1930 shown to the right are in elegant celluloid, while sterling silver, resin or even plastic are all materials used to create pens.
The Omas Burkina is another example of the classic style with a little leaning towards contemporary in terms of the design of the finish.
The list of classic pens is long and would include the the Waterman Exception or Man, the Pelikan M400, M600, M800 and M1000 to name just a few of the pens that could be said to have a classic style with a traditional look.
Although I included images of some of the high end models, classic is not limited to a specific price point. The classic styles come in the full range of price points. It is the classic style rather than the price point. The Waterman Phileas, the Laban Mento, the Cross Townsend are all examples of pens that would fit the classic group.
What is contemporary or traditional is also a matter of taste and there is some lattitude in making the call. For example, the 2010 Pen World Reader's Choice awards designed the OMAS Arte Italiana Wild - Paragon as the Best Contemporary Design. My personal perception of the pen is that it is not contemporary in design, but rather a traditional classic look. In any regard, boy that is one pen I would love to have!
Another broad grouping of pen styles is what I would call the unique feature group - pens with some aspect of the design that is out of the ordinary.
I find that pens in the unique group can still have very classic styles, but there is something different that has been purposefully incorporated into the overall design of the pen.
It could be a clip that rather than being on the cap, is down by the nib on the body of the pen, such as the Stipula Davinci, pictured above.
Or, the fountain pen could have a nib that recedes such as this year's stylish Lamy Dialog 3.
The Visconti Davina is unique in the mechanism used for the cap. The slots are positioned such so that that the bands of silver that curve along the body are exactly aligned to those on the cap. This happens when the pen is closed, or when the cap is posted on the pen. The curving lines of silver are such a dramatic point of the design of this pen, to have the bands not be aligned would be a significant determent to the look of the pen.
Again, a classic looking pen, it just has some unique feature.
There is a group that I refer to as jewellery or collectible pens.
The pens in this group have either silver or gold finishes, may have precious stones or have detailed artwork decorating the body of the pen as seen above in the Galileo Fountain Pen by Krone. The pen is hand painted on a mother of pearl barrel with images of celestial constellations. There were only 388 fountain pens produced.
Montblanc's Bohemne Papillon which is made from solid white, yellow or rose gold, studded with over 1,400 diamonds and sapphires wrapping around the body in three levels. When it was released, it has a price of 180,000 Euros.
There are other less expensive pens in this overall grouping. They may have overlays or fewer stones, but they share a common overall look.
I tend to see these pens more in magazine advertisements than pen stores but since the pens are usually produced in limited quantities that is to be expected.
So when individuals write and ask "who would buy a pen like that?" I usually reply, "some one who wants it.?
Take for example the Visconti Davina pen. After meeting Dante del Vecchio and hearing his passion in the design of the pen,and seeing how the cap closes and posts on the pen always keeping a perfect alignment of the bands of silver, it is a pen that I wanted. But, the Visconti Divina Royal, with its pink tones and Swarvski crystals although priced reasonable the same as the original Davina, would not be a pen that I would want. But then, someone else will.
In considering the diffrent styles of pen, it is not to say that one is better than another. The various groupings only demonstrate there is lots to choose from. In the end, your perception of what is good style will influence the next penyou want.
Enjoy your pens!
Your pen, an expression of you.