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Life's Fine Points

The World's finest pen makers are crafting works of art that fit in the palm of your hand
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 1)

But rather than feast on these accolades, Malaguti is hoping his "Mandela 80" collection trumpets such "a clarity in communication" that the pens "inspire people" and compel them to "rethink everything they once felt about Africa."  

Unlike some other pen manufacturers, Malaguti can afford to be the romantic, as Omas doesn't have to produce profits for a conglomerate parent, or play a numbers game that has its pieces appearing in every airport and department store on the planet. He's able to remain loyal to his strictly maintained "culture of the hand" (hand-crafting) mentality, a commitment to limited production that impels Geoffrey Berliner to say that "Omas is the Rolls-Royce of fountain pens. It's unequaled for integrity, durability and performance."  

Malaguti, though, isn't the only passionate penmaker. At internationally renowned Montblanc, a company esteemed for introducing collectible limited editions that soar in value like Internet stocks, Fred Reffsin, CEO of Montblanc North America, is also fervent about his newest "good life" trophies.  

Insisting the Germany-based Montblanc is the market's "trendsetter," the penmaker synonymous with "prestige, unique technical innovation and quality," Reffsin is confident that the just-issued "Marcel Proust" will write a new chapter in the firm's obsessive devotion to "de-acceleration," or to a slowing down in life that "preserves the beauty of the moment." Montblanc opened its first flagship boutique, at 834 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, with a gala event in June. The store features the company's first "De-Acceleration Studio," a 1,800-square-foot "spa for the mind" where pen devotees can read, write and relax surrounded by rare books and writing instruments.  

Such a philosophical bent is the beauty of writing with a fountain pen, and newcomers to this stylish world are advised that putting nib to paper demands a bow to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, a mindset totally removed from the freneticism of day-trading on the Web. But despite Reffsin's best intentions, this thick, sterling silver $750 pen is the latest in Montblanc's "writer series" homages, following pens that have honored Hemingway, Voltaire and Edgar Allan Poe, and that limited-edition cachet invariably sparks a buying frenzy.  

"Months ahead of its issuance, we already had a waiting list for the 'Proust,' for the investment values of Montblancs are like IBM and Microsoft: the market leader," says Fountain Pen Hospital's Wiederlight. "Montblanc is just magic when it comes to vintage, secondary market sales, especially with its 'Oscar Wilde' and 'Hemingway.' The 'Wilde' came out at $650 [in 1994] and is now $900, while I can't get enough 'Hemingways.' A spectacular piece, it was first $600 [in 1992], and has jumped to an amazing $2,200."  

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of its signature black resin "Meisterstück" pen, Montblanc is offering four editions crowned with a small diamond, from the "Special Anniversary Edition" for $425, the "Limited Edition" with a rose-gold finish for $650, the sterling silver "Solitaire" for $1,500 and, exclusively in Montblanc boutiques, the "Limited Edition 75," a $13,800 stunner in solid white gold. Reffsin feels these editions epitomize the "revolution" in writing instruments, their becoming "a statusy hallmark on the order of fine jewelry." To further crown the "Meisterstück" line, Montblanc is unveiling a 75th anniversary collection of 75 transparent "Skeleton" watches and pens, crafted with 18-karat gold and mother-of-pearl.  

"These watches are another sign of our devotion to living in the moment, and yet we're not sitting still," says Reffsin, 42. "As the limited-edition category leader, we felt an obligation to take stock of all that was wonderful this past century. That's why we made a 'retro' move with the 'Marcel Proust,' a safety-filler pen with a cartridge which is based on early 1900s technology."  

Making its own statement of singular craftsmanship, Namiki also turns to the past for artful inspiration. Founded in 1918, Namiki employs painstaking hand-lacquering techniques dating back to the seventh century (called maki-e). This Japanese firm (which has been enlisted by the Vatican to style a millennium pen) will soon spotlight the solid gold $9,000 "Double Dragon Emperor."  

The "Emperor" will probably follow the same august path as Namiki's $25,500 "Miyabi" series. Powdered in gold, and burnished with charcoal for extra sheen after receiving 10 coats of urushi lacquer, the three-pen "Miyabi" collection sold out almost immediately, says Namiki USA general manager Sal Esposito.  

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