Life's Fine Points
The World's finest pen makers are crafting works of art that fit in the palm of your hand
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99
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While the limited-edition "Houdini" ($1,275 in smoky gray resin, $2,800 in white gold, $9,500 in platinum) won't open any padlocked chests, handcuffs or bolted coffins, the special reserve "Houdini" is adorned with his image and fragments from a key that the conjurer actually used, and is packaged in a sumptuous black lacquered magician's drawer box that performs its own mind-boggling trick. "If you don't possess the magic, the pen can disappear before your very eyes," Kronenberger says with a laugh. "For we've created a special box with a drawer that works wonders."
Insisting that he has a limitless array of possible "personality" projects, Kronenberger, 43, won't disclose his next creation. But in the meantime, he intends to dazzle us with an affordable surprise that also recalls Houdini's era. Krone's "Vintage Select," like many pens of the 1920s, is equipped with a compression filler system. Press a button on this $250 gem and the ink flows into the pen, again dramatizing Krone's gift for designing mind-over-matter marvels.
Drawing from the Incas for its own historical inspiration, France's S.T. Dupont has crafted a tribute to the artistic brillianceof that New World civilization in its "Nuevo Mondo" collection. Styled in eye-catching blue Chinese lacquer with semi-precious stones and gold plating, this two pen and two lighter set is a hand-carved paean to the Incas' "spirit of discovery." Priced at $6,000, only 500 sets will be available worldwide.
Usually the firm would make just one limited edition a year but, in preparation for gala millennium celebrations, it is also offering the "Perspective 2000," another multiple pen-and-lighter combination that will contrast black Chinese lacquer with the radiance of white palladium, a metal of the platinum family.
Cartier's "Diablo" line is another French joy. Handsome complements to the company's striking watch collection, the mini "Diablo" with an 18-karat-gold nib is made of a composite material with gold-plated accents, while a larger version of this classic-looking piece is finished in alluring platinum or gold. Both pens are sleek, elegant and regal successors to the solid gold "Pasha," a one-of-a-kind $65,000 fountain pen adorned with sapphires and diamonds that evokes all the splendor of palatial Arabian nights.
Though uniquely colored celluloid treasures have shaped Pelikan's proud history since it launched a piston-filling fountain pen in 1929, this industry stalwart is also issuing a golden delight. Its $2,000 "White Gold" pen with an Art Deco look is an exact replica of a work introduced in the 1930s, and while slightly smaller than the much-acclaimed marble jade "1935" or deep blue "Concerto," this gold-over-brass divertissement still carries the weight of Pelikan's corporate credo, "the best functioning pens in the world."
"Indicative of German precision, Pelikans are extremely well made," says Geoffrey Berliner. "They have one of the softest nibs in the market, and overall, are a throwback to timeless pen virtues."
Such high praise was once reserved for Parker and Waterman. Now owned by Gillette, both companies have tried to recapture their former marketplace pizzazz by fashioning pens that evoke 1920s glories. Parker has reissued its fabled emerald-eyed "Snake" at $12,000 (the original classic fetches about $25,000 in the secondary market) and also offers an 18-carat "Duofold Presidential," while Waterman tickles a cigar lover's fancy with its sapphire-blue "Edson," a torpedo-shaped collectible that salutes company founder Louis Edson, the patriarch of pendom's golden age.
The 1920s look is also a staple of six-year-old Bexley, the company that produces Cigar Aficionado-logoed writing instruments. After the smokin' success of its colorful cast-acrylic "Cable Twist" and filigreed gold or sterling silver "Decoband" pens, this rising star is now flaunting a "Gold Line," arctic blue, granite and terra-cotta hued pieces with cast acrylic barrels and vermeil caps, for $390.
"While we've only been known for making larger pens, now we're designing writing instruments for both genders, those with large and also small hands," says Bexley president Howard Levy. "Discerning males are still vital to us. But the trend these days is towards smaller pieces." Taking its cues from the legendary craftsman Peter Carl Fabergé, his workshop lieutenant Michel Perchin, and their Czarist-era fantasies, the Renaissance Pen Co. is styling guilloched and bejeweled pens suitable for any royal court.
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