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  1. Design & Culture
October 29, 2023

How Montblanc Creates the World’s Finest Pens

Taking the time to handwrite a note or a memoir is something few people do these days. But it is an art.

By Roberta Naas

This 117-year-old brand creates the most superb writing instruments that not only look and feel exquisite, but also complement the words in your mind as you put pen to paper.

With the theme ‘inspire writing’ as its creed, Montblanc is a master at crafting writing instruments in its Hamburg, Germany workshops, where hundreds of highly skilled master artisans, designers and craftsmen spend hours tirelessly building the brand’s many different writing tools.

From ballpoint pens and rollerballs to fineliners and fountain pens that range in price from $500 to hundreds of thousands of dollars for limited editions and one-of-a-kind pieces, Montblanc insists its instruments offer the most advanced luxury writing experience.

Known for its famed Meisterstück (which translates as Masterpiece) introduced in 1952, Montblanc has been the writing instrument of choice for many celebrities, writers, artists and even global leaders.

In fact, US President John F Kennedy signed the Golden Book of the city of Cologne with a Meisterstück in June 1963. Others who have wielded the iconic instrument include Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela, designer Marc Newson, artist Yoko Ono and more.

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Montblanc pens in construction
Every Montblanc writing instrument undergoes more than 100 individual steps from start to finish / ©Christoph Weiss Photography

The making of each writing instrument would not be possible if not for the genius engineers and designers at Montblanc. Not only is every writing instrument — from the nib to the ink feeder, barrel, cap and clip — made totally in-house, but the brand designs and builds all of the necessary tools to make the pens.

The creation of a writing instrument as world-renowned as Montblanc is both an art and a science. Nothing is left to chance. It is a precise and beautifully choreographed dance of expertise and quality control every step of the way — right down to the legendary Montblanc white star logo.

Every Montblanc writing instrument undergoes more than 100 individual steps from start to finish.

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Highly skilled master artisans, designers and craftsmen spend hours tirelessly building the brand’s many different writing tools / ©Christoph Weiss Photography

The creation of these instruments — once designed — begins with the making of the true soul of the pen: the nib. While Montblanc makes many different nibs and nib types (each requiring approximately 35 individual steps), it is the fountain pen that receives the most meticulous and time-consuming work.

Every person’s handwriting is truly individual. How hard you press on the paper, the slant of your hand, the way you hold the pen — all contribute to your writing. At Montblanc, the making of the nib seems to be almost a hallowed exercise, where exacting hand craftsmanship blends with precision machines. Each nib needs the perfect amount of hardness and flexibility, of curve and embellishment.

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The making of the nib starts with a sheet of either 14- or 18-karat gold that is stamped with its shape and then cut to form. The curve of the nib is shaped by hand on a machine using pressure, and then a tiny iridium ball (more precious than gold and perfect for writing) is welded into the tip. Only then is the nib cut down the center using a diamond-tipped graphite disk and a wire as thin as a human hair to form the capillary for the ink.

All of the nibs are also meticulously polished and engraved by hand. The mirror polishing of the angles is done using a diamond paste, and the engraving and etching are done using a microscope and finely chiseled tools. If the nib is designed to be two different hues, the gold is masked before the nib goes into a galvanic bath. The masking is later removed, revealing a magnificent two-toned engraved nip.

Montblanc orient express pens
Montblanc recently unveiled its newest High Artistry collection inspired by the Orient Express / ©Christoph Weiss Photography

But it is not enough that the nib looks beautiful. It must write beautifully, too. Every single nib of every single Montblanc writing instrument is tested in a soundproof room behind glass walls where only the most thoroughly trained technicians (who train for six to eight months for this process) dip the nibs into colorless ink and write endless loops of figure eights on paper.

They are testing the feel of the nib in their hands, whether it sounds scratchy on the paper, whether it has the right flow of ink and more. Each nib must be perfect, and because there are quality checks at every single step in the making of the nib, most nibs are absolutely flawless. In fact, more than 95% of the thousands of nibs created and tested are ideal.

The making of the body — the cap and the barrel — takes place in a different area of the manufacturer than the nibs. Each ink feeder and each case is made using injection molding, where the exclusive secret-formula resin is injected into the mold and heated at temperatures as high as 280°C (approx. 536°F) and up to 2,000 bar of pressure. Each metal mold can only be used for about a week and then it must be repolished (a step that takes as long as six hours) before it can be used again.

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The nibs are dropped, shaken and tested in different climates; cap-off time tested; and more to ensure utter perfection / ©Joerg Wischmann

Every Montblanc writing instrument carries the brand’s six-pointed star emblem that represents the famed Mont Blanc mountain and discreetly shares the fact that you are holding not just a striking writing instrument, but a status symbol. Like the nibs, the finished pens are put to the test time and again.

They are dropped, shaken and tested in different climates; cap-off time tested; and more to ensure utter perfection.

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While most people recognize Montblanc for its classic black-and-white writing instruments, the brand offers a host of colors and patterns. It also creates exceptional limited-edition and one-of-a-kind writing instruments that are absolutely mesmerizing.

As part of its High Artistry collection, Montblanc has created writing instruments made of marble, for instance, inspired by Michelangelo’s David; stained glass cloisonne inspired by Victor Hugo; and feathers and lacquer to form a diamond-set gold piece inspired by Ludwig II, the Swan King.

Recently, Montblanc unveiled its newest High Artistry collection inspired by the Orient Express. The multiple instruments in the Journey on the Orient Express Edition collection are designed to recall the idea of luxury that enchanted travelers in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Orient Express Limited Edition 10 recalls Agatha Christie’s 1934 crime novel, Murder on the Orient Express / ©Christoph Weiss Photography

Seven instruments comprise the collection and range from a one-of-a-kind piece inspired by butterflies and with a working watch in the pen cap, to The Orient Express Limited Edition 10 that recalls Agatha Christie’s 1934 crime novel, Murder on the Orient Express, using stained sycamore wood and a ‘broken’ miniature clock frozen at ‘01:15’ — the time the murder in the story took place.

Easily one of the most beautiful High Artistry Journey on the Orient Express pieces is the Limited Edition 83 that recalls the locomotive itself. Made of black lacquer, the cap and barrel are based on the iron machinery of a steam engine. It boasts a skeleton overlay in solid gold that is inspired by the wheels of the train and the side rails. The cap opens via an innovative snap mechanism and features the Montblanc emblem in mother of pearl.

Montblanc also makes its own ink feeders, converters and mechanical parts inside the pens, as well as ink — all contributing to the magic of a Montblanc writing instrument.

montblanc.com

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