I am not completely up to speed on my Rotring history, but according to the Wikipedia page, the company was sold to the Newell Rubbermaid conglomerate in 1998, who also owns such popular brands as Sharpie, Uni-Ball, and many more office product names you know and love. Rotring brought a more technical product to their portfolio, but some of the all-time classics - like the Rotring 500, 600, and 800 - are not part of their US offering. These cult classic drafting pencils are still being manufactured, but are Japan only, and of course imported by JetPens.
The Rotring 500 is the entry level model in this line. It features a plastic body as opposed to the fully metal body of the Rotring 600, but otherwise all of the other features are the same. The knurled grip is the highlight for me - it feels just awesome to hold - and even the lead grade indicator has a knurled metal casing. The most visually appealing part of this pencil to me is tip/guide pipe section of the pencil. It is wonderfully designed and is the main reason why I like drafting style pencils more than traditional mechanical pencils.
The Rotring line can be expensive at first glance, with the prices (at the time of writing) at $16.50 for the 500, $33.00 for the 600, and $82.50 for the 800. But looking at the reviews online at JetPens and on other blogs like Dave’s Mechanical Pencils, these pencils are going to last you a very long time and are a great value.
I hope I get the opportunity to review the 600 and 800 soon. If anyone has either of these models and would like to write a guest review I would love to have you.