Montegrappa is an Italian pen manufacturer that you've probably heard of in our little community. They have some seriously beautiful pens in their catalog, as well as some pretty outrageous ones. Regardless of what you've heard, you certainly associate the name with a luxury brand, and rightly so. These are luxury writing instruments, and the price reflects that. One of the more economical lines from Montegrappa is the Fortuna. JetPens recently started carrying this model, and I'll be reviewing the white model with Ruthenium finish here.
The Fortuna is a medium-sized pen, measuring very close in length to a Pilot Custom Heritage 92. It's wider than the Pilot, but the length is pretty standard. It's also quite a bit heavier than the Pilot due to the materials that are used in the pen. The body and cap are mostly plastic (resin), the grip section is lacquered metal, and the trim is plated in something called "ruthenium," which has a dark gun-metal finish. It's pleasing to the eye, and it garners plenty of comments. The nib is steel underneath the ruthenium plating as well, and features an interesting geometric pattern that I find enjoyable. The model I have is a fine nib, but you can also get medium and broad (no extra fines here!).
The pen is a bit on the heavy side due to the amount of metal found in it. Once it's uncapped, this mostly evens out, though it's a bit heavier on the nib side due to the metal grip section.
The top of the cap features a "1912" jewel that gives the pen a classy, elegant look. The band around the base of the cap features a scripted "Montegrappa" inlay that also adds to the classy feel. The clip is really strong and has a wheel at the end that rotates freely if given the chance. This makes slipping it on to and removing it from different materials a simple affair.
Being white, it doesn't show fingerprints at all. This is a nice departure from most of the pens I own. On the flip side, though, it does show dark colored particles and rogue ink stains much easier than other pens. This isn't a criticism, but just an observation that would apply to any light-colored pen.
I normally chuck the boxes as soon as the pen is out, but the Montegrappa presentation is really something to behold, and it really solidifies the "luxury" impression. Inside the outer sleeve, there's an elegant cardboard box that features the Montegrappa logo on a subtle geometric pattern. (This same pattern carries through to the nib of the pen.) Inside that cardboard box, you find a more ornate gift box that features the Montegrappa logo again on a metal plate. This hinged box opens up to reveal the Fortuna inside a soft, gray interior. It really is a presentation. Under the bed, you'll find some literature and a couple of black cartridges for the pen. But, the pen already has a converter installed.
Once you get the pen unboxed and inked, it's time to write. And, really, for any pen, this is where it counts the most. Sadly, the Montegrappa failed to please on this front.
I loaded this pen with several different inks, and experienced the same issues. It frequently has trouble starting ink flow, skips occasionally, and has a very finicky sweet spot. Being a standard fine nib, it's more finicky than my customized italic nibs that have very specific sweet spots.
Additionally, this pen wrote very poorly straight out of the box. It was extremely scratchy to the point of damaging the paper on light strokes. The ink flow was very light, and it was frustrating to use.
After inspecting the nib, it had a misaligned tine and a bad case of baby's bottom. I'm no stranger to brand new fountain pens that require a certain amount of adjustment and tuning, but I have zero patience for these kinds of issues when it comes to pens that cost more than about $50. I wrote about the baby's bottom issue I experienced with a Kaweco AL Sport, and that pen can be had for less than $100. Now, any reputable pen retailer will gladly accept a return or exchange for a pen that performs so poorly out of the box, but it's still unacceptable for a pen manufacturer to release pens to retailers and customers that fail even the simplest tests. The first and foremost function of any fountain pen, no matter how inexpensive or luxurious, is to write. When a $8 pen fails this test, it's frustrating, but somewhat understandable. When an $80 pen fails this test, it's inexcusable and maddening. When a $280 pen fails this test, I'm not sure what to say about it. It's embarrassing.
To be fair, there are other pens that have a bad reputation for nib quality. The Lamy 2000 comes to mind. A Lamy 2000 that's in good working order is a great pen. It's one of my favorite pens. I got lucky when I bought mine because it had a great nib from day one. Plus, I really liked the design and feel of the pen, so I would have gladly exchanged it for another copy if the first one had issues. And I can gladly recommend the same for the Montegrappa Fortuna. It has a unique, beautiful aesthetic. If you enjoy how this pen looks, understand that you can purchase it with full confidence that the retailer will make sure you are happy. For this pen junkie, I'm afraid I can't recommend it at all because of the poor experience I've had. And here's why.
At the $280 range, the margin for error is extremely small, and the competition for high-quality, excellent pens is very high. Here's a selection of some of my favorite pens that can be had for the same ballpark price:
- Pilot Custom 74
- Pilot Custom Heritage 92
- Pilot Custom 823
- Several Karas Kustom pens
- Sailor Pro Gear
- Sailor 1911
- Franklin Christoph with a Masuyama nib option
- Many, many more
My point here is that there are so many excellent options at this price range that would serve you well. If the Fortuna has stolen your heart based on looks, I hope you get an excellent, top-notch copy of the pen to enjoy for many years to come. If you want some of the best pens money can buy at this price range, it doesn't make the list.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes.)
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