(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've long been entranced by the Montblanc Agatha Christie Writer's Edition–that serpent clip and nib are so fabulous. When Montblanc announced the Heritage Rouge et Noir edition, I fell in love immediately. I mean, what's not to love? A Montblanc pen in coral (coral is the new black) and a serpent clip with green spinels for eyes and a serpent nib–all for a price significantly less than an Agatha? I knew I had to have one.
I ordered my pen from Appelboom and requested a special factory-made oblique medium nib.
"This," I told my beleaguered husband, "will be my Mother's Day, Anniversary, Birthday, and Christmas gift!"
"Okay," he said, "but you can't open it until Christmas."
"Sure!" I said. "I can totally wait until Christmas."
But, sacrifices have to be made for the Pen Addict. What's the point of waiting until December to review this pen when all of them might be sold by then? No. Pen Addict readers need to know whether or not they should buy this pen themselves. I am such a fountain pen martyr that I opened it for your sake, good readers. But, I promise that I will clean it thoroughly, put it back in its box, and save it for Christmas once I'm done with this review. Really!
The Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir is part of a retro series Montblanc embarked on with the Heritage 1912 (see my review here). The Heritage Rouge et Noir series–one in black, one in coral, and one in black ebonite–hearken back to the 1906 safety-pens, though the modern ones are piston fillers. Taking a cue from the past, the pens have large snowcaps/stars on their finials and a retro-looking serpent clip.
I chose the coral version because, frankly, I'm tired of black pens. Plus, the serpent on the coral version has green spinels for eyes whereas the black version has no jewels. The far more expensive ebonite version has rubies for the serpent's eyes.
The packaging for the Heritage Rouge et Noir is pretty understated for Montblanc. The pen is housed in a black and cream clamshell cardboard box (albeit a nice cardboard box) with a cream velvet interior. A leaflet accompanies the pen.
Aside from the added flare of the serpent clip and nib, this pen is a simple design. The barrel is made of lacquered metal with an antique-looking metal grip. The cap threads are on the nib end of the grip, so your fingers don't contact them. The piston knob is set off with a metal ring that matches the grip. The knob turns on metal threads, and I'm pretty sure there's a ball or agitator inside the piston housing to keep the ink flowing. I can hear it when I shake the pen.
The cap is made of resin with a large cream-colored snowcap/star with a ridged ring around the finial. These details evoke the look of the 1906 safety pens.
An old-style Montblanc logo is etched into the side and matches the cream color of the star.
Of course, the highlight of the cap is the serpent clip. The tail wraps around the cap twice and the upper body of the serpent forms the clip. Montblanc says that the clip is made of a special alloy that has been "aged by a unique galvanic and stripping process." The green crystal serpent eyes glint in the sun and make me smile.
The nib is 14K gold, rhodium-plated with a golden engraved serpent (the black model has a single-tone nib, whereas the ebonite model also has a two-tone nib). The triangular breather hole nicely melds with the serpent's head. It is a striking design (pun intended).
The nib is small but in proportion with the rest of the pen. Unlike the Heritage 1912 nib which has a vintage, springy feel to it, this nib has no "give," unfortunately.
The oblique medium grind offers some line variation and accommodates my tendency to rotate the pen while writing. It took me a little practice to find the sweet spot, but, once I did, the nib wrote smoothly. For some reason the feed doesn't deliver as much ink as I'd like, so periodically I have to shake the pen to get the ink flowing more. It's not that the pen ever completely stops writing or skips, it's just that the ink flow slows down.
I should note that getting my Rouge et Noir with the OM nib took some time. I ordered the pen on April 9, but Appelboom didn't receive it until late June. The specialty nibs are simply not well stocked by Montblanc.
So. How does my Mother's Day, Anniversary, Birthday, and Christmas pen measure up? In terms of quality and beauty, this pen is outstanding and gorgeous. But, dang it, it's just too skinny. It measures 135mm in length, capped; 125mm uncapped; 160mm posted but is less than 10mm in diameter at the grip. Although the proportions are elegant and lean, it feels like a (rather heavy) Bic in the hand (horrors!).
The metal barrel gives the pen some heft, but my hand cramps up when I'm writing for any length of time. I love everything else about this pen, but I don't much enjoy writing with it, and that truly is a shame. Perhaps, with some time, adjusting my grip, and experimenting with different inks, I'll discover I can write with this pen without discomfort. Still, beauty and elegance won't heal hand cramps, so I may have to let this one go. Honestly, I think I really just want an Agatha, but this one almost scratched that itch.
The MB Heritage Rouge et Noir is available at many retailers and Montblanc boutiques. The list price for the black or coral resin versions is around $700.00. If you want the ebonite version, the list price is around $2,000.
- The Montblanc Heritage Rouge et Noir is a well-crafted, retro-looking fountain pen.
- Despite its svelt girth, the pen feels solid in the hand because the barrel is made of metal.
- The serpent clip and nib are absolutely stunning. The coral color is a welcome departure from black.
- It is a piston filler, though the ink capacity is rather small (less than 1ml).
- The nib performs smoothly but does not have the spring of the MB Heritage 1912 nib.
- Unfortunately, the pen is very thin in diameter. While this might not bother some people, others will find the pen uncomfortable to write with.
- The pen is expensive (but that's true for all Montblancs).
- The Rouge et Noir is quickly becoming more difficult to find. And, if you want a special nib, be aware that it takes a long time to obtain one.
- I found the ink flow to be a bit stingy but need to experiment more with different inks.
I purchased this pen with my own money and was not compensated by Montblanc for this review.
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