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  • Jeanne Loganbill

Luxury brand spotlight: Montblanc


There’s something wonderful about a well-made fountain pen. The gentle glide of its nib, the effortless flow of ink onto the page, and the weight of a well-balanced barrel nestled between your thumb and forefinger transform the mundane into a sensory experience.


One name in luxury writing instruments stands out, perhaps more than any other: Montblanc. Now almost 120 years old, the firm is widely considered a leader in precision engineering and prestigious craftsmanship. In short, it’s an industry legend.


Having said this, all innovators stand on the shoulders of giants – and the development of the fountain pen is no exception. We’ll begin this spotlight with a brief history of refillable ink pens, then explore the rise of Montblanc and the evolution of its masterpiece, the Meisterstück.


Innovation springs from frustration

In AD 953, almost certainly tired of spilling ink on himself, the fourth Fāṭimid caliph, Ma’ad al-Mu’izz li Dīn Allah, commissioned the invention of the first fountain pen in recorded history.


“We wish to construct a pen which can be used for writing without having recourse to an ink-holder, and whose ink will be contained inside it,” the caliph instructed, according to his official historian, Qadi al-Nu’man al-Tamimi. “A person can fill it with ink and write whatever he likes. The writer can put it in his sleeve or anywhere he wishes, and it will not stain, nor will any drop of ink leak out of it.”


And so, a while later, the caliph’s craftsman returned to him with a pen made of gold. After a few minor adjustments, it delivered the desired results, and the caliph “wrote the best hand for as long as he wished.”


Despite its clever design, the fountain pen didn’t immediately become a commercial success. In fact, we have to skip ahead 500 years to find another example, this time in Leonardo da Vinci’s journals. The first modern fountain pen patents weren’t issued until the early 19th century, nearly a millennium after the caliph’s invention.


Building a reliable design

Early fountain pens included a complicated six-quill design by German inventor Daniel Schwenter, where several partial quills were used to create a refillable ink reservoir for an outer quill. Other pens were made from steel, or the combination of a swan’s quill and a thin metal tube.


While ingenious, these earliest concepts were difficult to fill – and many of them didn’t work very well. Some called for the addition of ink via an eyedropper, while others, like Schwenter’s, demanded users refill the pen’s reservoir by mouth. Inks were typically full of sediment and corrosive as well as highly pigmented, making accidental ingestion deeply undesirable.


But by the turn of the 20th century, fountain pens had become more sophisticated. With air pressure problems solved and steel nibs available, several companies, including Waterman and Parker, began mass producing pens and selling them to the public.


The beginning of a Montblanc era

In 1906, banker Alfred Nehemias and engineer August Eberstein co-founded Simplizissiumus-Füllhalter in Berlin. A combination of German and Germanised Latin, the name means “the simplest fountain pen”. One year later, the company moved to Hamburg and changed its name to Simplo Filler Pen Co. GmbH.


By the time Wilhelm Dziambor, Christian Lausen and Claus Voss acquired the business, development of a refillable “safety pen” was well underway. In 1909, the company launched the Rouge et Noir, named after an 1830 novel by the famed 19th-century French writer, Stendhal. The original pen was made of black ebonite, a combination of natural rubber, sulphur and linseed oil. It had a plain red cap top.


Montblanc No. 2S Collectible Stars advertisement, circa 1912 (credit: vintagemontblancpens.com)

The following year, Simplo released the Montblanc pen, later available in miniature, short and long versions, all featuring a white cap top. In 1913, the company brought nib production in house, and in 1914, the iconic white Montblanc snowflake began to appear on its pens.


Evolution of the Meisterstück

Simplo’s opus magnum, the Meisterstück, took years to perfect. In 1923, the company produced a pneumatic filler mechanism, which it integrated into some of its pens between 1924 and 1929. When the Meisterstück emerged in 1924, several versions used the pneumatic mechanism. Others had a pump or piston filler.


Available in a range of barrel sizes and nibs, like other Simplo pens, the Meisterstück quickly became an internationally acclaimed statement piece. All pens were numbered to indicate the type, the filler mechanism and the nib size. So, for example, a Meisterstück 136 had a piston filler, indicated by the number three, and a mid-size number six nib.


In 1934, 24 years after the introduction of its eponymous pen, Simplo changed its name one last time, to Montblanc.


Montblanc today

With its sleek black barrel and understated elegance, a classic Meisterstück is deliberately discreet. Unless you’re sitting next to a fellow Montblanc admirer, nobody will ever be the wiser. You’re holding a beautifully constructed marvel, but it’s a secret – a deeply personal experience.


Assembled by hand in the company’s Hamburg workshop, every pen is built around a gold-and-rhodium nib. The 35-step journey begins with a process called “Strakverlauf”, where artisans carefully roll a sheet of gold into a conical shape before cutting the nib out by hand. The nib’s rhodium inlay makes it more flexible and resilient, while an iridium tip improves durability and guarantees a smooth flow of ink.


Then, before being mounted on a resin barrel, each nib undergoes a series of quality control checks. One of the last involves listening carefully to the sound it makes as it’s drawn over a sheet of paper. Only nibs that glide noislessly make the final cut.


All Montblanc Meisterstück pens come with free personalisation, and if you’re looking for something really special, you can opt for a bespoke expereince and have a jewel mounted on the nib. In the end, you’re investing in an heirloom – something genuinely special you can pass down to the next generation.


An experience to remember

Modern Montblanc pens are beloved by collectors worldwide, not because they’re status symbols, but because they turn an ordinary task – writing – into something truly profound.


In December 2023, we had the pleasure of hosting a Montblanc demonstration at our end-of-year client and partner event at IBV International Vaults in London. Attendees were shown a beautiful range of writing instruments and had the chance to experience a Meisterstück in person.


If you’d like to discover Montblanc’s outstanding craftsmanship for yourself, you can do so online or at an authorised retailer worldwide, including the Montblanc boutique at 119 New Bond Street, London.


To learn more about Interpolitan’s Montblanc gifting programme, please contact your relationship manager.

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