(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
I wasn't planning on buying another Montblanc, especially not one that retails for $1,100. But I saw one for sale on Fountain Pen Network for almost half the price of retail, and, in spite of misgivings about the seller (see last week's post "Remorse"), I purchased one.
By the time I made my purchase, I had read several reviews of the Heritage 1912. This pen seems to be one of those that you either love or hate. Some reviewers deride the white star/snow cap that makes up the entire finial of the cap, saying it is ostentatious. Some like the simple lines of the pen and others think it is boring. Some appreciate the mechanics of the pen (it works like a safety pen); whereas others find it cumbersome to use. But almost everyone agrees that the nib, though plain, is something special: springy with a tiny bit of flex, reminiscent of MB nibs from the old days.
My Montblanc Heritage 1912 arrived in bubble wrap and packaged in a cheap Eau de Toilette box. If you buy yours from a more reputable seller, you will likely get a nicer box. I don't know how brand new Montblanc Heritage 1912s are packaged, but I presume that the box is much nicer than mine.
I took my chances when I bought my pen from an untrustworthy seller on Fountain Pen Network. As a consequence, I got an imperfect pen. The exterior is marred by one very obvious chip near the piston and numerous scratches all over the pen (most of which you can't see unless you look through a macro lens, which I always do, so I see every imperfection).
Plus, as many other Heritage owners noted, the cap leaves scratches where it screws onto the barrel. At this price point, such a thing shouldn't happen. But since my pen already had scratches, I'm not too bothered by it.
The Montblanc Heritage 1912 is a small pen, measuring only 121mm in length capped and 126 mm with the nib extended. It fits my hand perfectly, but people with larger hands might find it a bit small, especially since you cannot post the cap. Even though the pen is small in length, the barrel is fairly large in diameter (from 10.2 to 13.1mm). It's a hefty pen, weighing 48 grams capped, 37 grams uncapped. So though it is small in length, it feels substantial in the hand. I find it quite comfortable to write with.
The gigantic white snowcap/star underneath a clear, resin dome reminds me somewhat of a snow globe. I've read that the star is either cut out of quartz or painted with mother-of-pearl lacquer. Either way, it dazzles in light. It's quite distinctive from other modern Montblanc stars and mimics the original white finial of the Simplo Safety Filler.
The clip also hearkens back to the safety pen on which the Heritage is modeled. It is platinum plated and unadorned except for the Montblanc star engraved on the back.
The clip doesn't even have the name "Montblanc" engraved on it, though thanks to this blog post, I discovered that the words "Made in Germany" are engraved under the clip. A serial number is also inscribed in tiny numbers and letters on the upper ring of the clip.
The pen uncapped looks unremarkable, much like the Writer's Edition Agatha Christie without a nib. The barrel is slightly thinner near the nib opening and widens closer to the knob. The knob is set off by grooves which match the grooves beneath the finial on the cap. That's it. The barrel of the pen is black, sleek, and simple.
The coolest thing about this pen is the mechanism that performs dual functions. If you twist the knob clockwise, the nib extends; counterclockwise, the nib retracts. Original safety pens did the same thing, and you filled them with an eyedropper.
But the Heritage is a piston filler. After extending the nib, you can pull the knob out and it functions as a piston.
Dip the nib into the ink of your choice, turn the knob, and the pen is filled with ink. Push the knob back in place and you're ready to write. I think this is absolutely ingenious. Though some complain that the pen doesn't hold much ink (about 0.8ml), I don't mind. I can fill it without the mess of an eyedropper. And, as far as I know, this is the first pen Montblanc has made with an extendable nib that doesn't require the use of cartridges.
The nib is 14K gold and rhodium-plated and Montblanc describes it as "soft elastic." Unlike most MB nibs with their intricate designs, this nib is fairly plain with a triangular breather hole. The MB star/snowcap symbol and the number 4810 are the only adornments on the nib, which is also stamped with the karats and the name Montblanc.
While the nib is by no means a vintage flex, it is springy and offers some line variation. The feed supplies plenty of ink and the nib writes smoothly. I've experienced no hard starts or skipping with this nib. I find it hard to describe why the writing experience is so special, but it is. This pen writes like no other pen I own.
The cap has a mechanism in it that prevents you from accidentally trying to cap the pen while the nib is extended. Yes, I've accidentally tried that once or twice. But this feature protects your nib.
The Montblanc Heritage 1912 is a solid pen. I can't stop writing with it. I love turning the knob and watching the nib emerge and disappear. (I am obviously easily entertained). Would I pay retail ($1,100) for this pen? No. I only bought this pen because it was priced well below retail. Admittedly, my pen was not in new condition (though it was described as such), and the seller gave me a partial refund. Ultimately, I bought this pen for less than half of its retail price. It is imperfect cosmetically, but it's a great writer, and that's what matters.
I highly recommend the Montblanc Heritage 1912 if you can afford it new or if you can find it at a really good price used (though I wouldn't recommend my seller). It's a beautiful, elegant, well-designed pen and an excellent writer.
- The nib absolutely makes this pen. It has a bounce and slight flex to it that is reminiscent of vintage pens. It writes beautifully.
- If you like understated, black pens with a simple retro clip and don't mind a big white snowcap on the top, you'll love this pen.
- The mechanism for extending and retracting the nib and for piston filling is simply genius. It works smoothly and flawlessly.
- The pen has a good balance to it in the hand, even though it is rather heavy and wide in diameter.
- The Heritage 1912 is a piston filler.
- Hoo boy, is this pen expensive!
- Some people find the white star/snowcap too ostentatious for an otherwise simple pen. Me? I love it.
- You cannot post the cap. If that matters to you, then it's definitely a negative for this pen. I never post, so it doesn't bother me.
- To use the pen, you have to unscrew the cap and extend the nib. That's an extra step, and some people find that burdensome. I think that's part of the cool-factor for the pen. But, if you find it tedious to add the extra step of extending or retracting the nib, then you won't like this pen.