There are two things in this world that can announce that one has arrived like nothing else can. One is a Montblanc pen – its snowy crest peeping from the shirt pocket and the other is a Rolex watch on the wrist. Little wonder, these two items continue to be the most copied and counterfeited.
My sincere apologies to the connoisseurs, but I guess, a little background about Montblanc’s climb to the summit (no pun intended, considering the fact that the Montblanc logo – the six-sided star, represents the snow-capped peak of the Mont Blanc massif, Europe’s highest at 4810 meters, which also happens to be the number etched on the pen’s nibs) is warranted here, if for nothing, then just to clear the air. And a lot needs to be cleared, for not everyone who carries a Montblanc in his pocket, writes with one. Just like elephants have two sets of teeth, one for eating and the other for show – there are men who write, if at all, with disposable pens, but flaunt the Montblanc as an accessory in some primal (read convoluted) mating ritual.
The pen that they flaunt is almost always the Meisterstück – that too, the model 149. Though I will not wager a bet about the model number with the philistines. Incidentally, Meisterstück is German for “masterpiece”, the no-nonsense creators of the cigar-shaped cult pen taking no chances and leaving nothing for the imagination. The German dedication to details is writ large on pen – down to the number 149 – the “one” standing for the first tier or top of the line, the “four” referring to the pen being a piston filler and the “nine” pointing at the number nine sized nib (which was incidentally, also their biggest).
For the uninitiated, the Meisterstück dates back to 1924, when the then “Simplo Filler Pen Company” branded its premium line of writing instruments as the masterpiece of their creation. The built-in inkwell and the handcrafted gold nib that the pen featured had created a storm and Montblanc has never looked back since. Another bit of trivia – the white star has decorated every Montblanc piece since 1913 while the “4810” was incorporated much later in 1929. The nib, the soul of any writing instrument, is always 18 K and involves 30 meticulous hand profiled steps, before they qualify to sport the “4810” badge of honour.
The 149 is a huge pen, in fact beastly in its size. The ink capacity is also ocean-liner class and it writes with the steady, yet elegant gait of an Olympic equestrian champion or a ramp model – depending upon your preference. I feel I am not even qualified to hazard slipping in my opinion about its writing qualities, it is not an icon for nothing – and would rather keep it at that. It is 144 mm in length when capped (uncapped 130 mm) which is, unless you are the Terminator, too big to be posted. I am not much into posting in any case.
With its characteristic 3 gold rings and the precious barrel, the 149 is certainly one of the most famous, if not the most famous writing instrument of all time. The copies and the fakes that litter the back alleys of the internet, infesting with the same proliferation with which they occupy the sidewalks of Sukumvit in Bangkok, are only a tribute. The same way the nouveau riche pays obeisance to education, or the lack of it, by flaunting his pen.
I can ramble on and on, such is my passion for the pen. Let me end by putting one record straight. Hitler never used the Meisterstück and all those stories about the swastika emblemed Montblanc are just fibs as are the stories about Mein Kampf being penned by one. As a matter of fact, Dr Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda chief didn’t use one either, his fabled diary being largely written by pen notwithstanding. And finally – the Montblanc emblem is not the six-sided Jewish Star of David put there by a designer of Jewish origin in the Montblanc design department to spite the Nazis.