Montblanc Meisterstück

My father, who worked in real estate, always had a gold Cross pen in his left shirt pocket. I learned at a young age that the type of pen you carry makes a statement. Like most kids in the ’80s and ’90s, I carried a Bic Cristal ballpoint (a pen with its own merits, but that’s for another Design Lesson). The pen of all pens was then, and still is, the Montblanc Meisterstück 149.

The fountain pens we know today became popular in the early twentieth century. They all use water-based inks (filling your pen with the wrong type of ink will ruin it) and have a reservoir for the ink. The reservoir can be built into the pen’s barrel, but today, a disposable ink cartridge is more common. The flexible metal tip at the end is the nib, with a tiny slit down its centerline, and it is tipped with a tiny ball made of an alloy of one of the
platinum-group metals.

The Meisterstück fountain pen was first introduced in 1924 by the company Simplo, which would later become Montblanc (after the name of the highest peak in the Alps). Meisterstück means “masterpiece,” and its design is luxurious: a black resin is used for the cap and barrel of the pen, “Meisterstück” is etched into the widest of the three gold rings that go around the base of the cap, and on the tip of the cap is the iconic white Montblanc emblem (a white star that represents the snowcap and six glacial valleys of Mont Blanc). The height of the mountain, which is 4,810 meters, is inscribed on the pen’s 18-carat hand-ground gold nib.

By the end of the 1920s, Montblanc was internationally known for its writing instruments. A lifetime guarantee was added in 1935 for the Meisterstück, and Montblanc began producing branded leather pen pouches, notebooks, and writing cases. Famous
Meisterstück users include President John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, and President Barack Obama.

The final-year project for a young craftsperson training at Montblanc is to design a Meisterstück; it marks their transition from apprentice to master. Each Meisterstück 149 is individually crafted and can be customized with various point sizes and ranges of flexibility in the nib. The pen is 148 mm (5.8 inches) long by 16 mm (0.63 inches) in diameter, and it has changed little over the past hundred years, except for a specially developed resin that replaced the original celluloid. In 1994 the Meisterstück Solitaire Royal became the world’s most expensive fountain pen, adorned with 4,810 diamonds, each set by hand. Today you can learn even more about this iconic writing instrument by visiting the Montblanc nib-making factory and the Montblanc Museum in Hamburg, Germany.


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