Why is a Porsche more expensive than a Mazda? After all, they’re both just cars at the end of the day. Well, everyone knows that isn’t true. A Porsche is also a status symbol, made from expensive materials to luxurious standards and in small numbers. It is in another class altogether, and it has a much richer, longer history than the Mazda brand. Similar considerations apply to Montblanc pens.
Montblanc pens are so expensive because of their history, craftsmanship, reputation, timeless design, attention to detail, investment value, longevity, product support, and distinctive branding. They are meticulously handcrafted using a range of high-quality materials to be beautiful and functional.
Official ceremonies around the world involving the signature of important documents have been taking place for centuries. The people involved want gravitas and wish to emphasize the occasion’s significance, so everything involved in the ceremony must reflect this. Since the pinnacle of the event is the signing, there is a focus on the pen in the signatory’s hand. Many of the rich and powerful have used Montblanc pens on these occasions.
History of Montblanc Pens
Montblanc was founded by two Germans. Alfred Nehemias, a banker from Hamburg, and August Eberstein, an engineer from Berlin, produced their easy-to-use fountain pens in 1906 over a hundred years ago. This was around the time when the fountain pen as we know it first began to appear. Some years later, the business was acquired by Wilhelm Dziambor, Christian Lausen, and Claus Johannes Voss, who started selling pens of higher quality in 1909.
In 1910 the first Montblanc pen was made. The Montblanc trademark is a white, six-pointed star-shaped device with rounded edges that looks like the cap of snow on the top of Mont Blanc as seen from above. It appears on the caps of Montblanc pens. “Mont Blanc” means white mountain and is the highest mountain in the Alps, a mountain range across Europe.
Fountain pens were essential writing tools when Montblanc was founded, as ballpoints had not yet been invented. Just as a mechanical watch back then had a functional role, so too did a fountain pen. However, as with many things, they could be bought in cheap or luxury versions. People usually bought the best they could afford.
As knowledge of materials science improved, manufacturers stopped making pens from vulcanized rubber, also known as ebonite, and used celluloid and subsequently thermoplastics, acetates, and acrylics to make their pen barrels.
After the second world war, Montblanc rebuilt its factories and distribution networks and launched the Meisterstück 149 in 1952. It was a black, cigar-shaped pen with a piston filler and gold trim and has been in production ever since. It has become the most recognizable fountain pen ever made and has built a strong tradition.
Today, Montblanc is a part of the Richemont Group of companies known worldwide for making high-end luxury items under other famous brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Baume & Mercier, and Vacheron Constantin. Montblanc is a luxury brand that depends on public perception and customer trust for its success.
In a 2013 interview, the CEO of Montblanc stated that the company’s luxury products promise high esteem, timeless, elegant design, and high quality derived from the excellence of its craftsmen. The promise is that the pen will still be loved and valued in the next ten, twenty, or thirty years. Montblanc’s products are intended to enrich its customers’ individual style and be heirlooms handed down to the next generation.
This does not mean that all of its products are only accessible to very wealthy clients. It also offers entry-level products designed to appeal to a wide range of people. However, the entry-level pens are still made by Montblanc, and they only attach their brand to things that meet their quality standards. “Entry-level” in the case of Montblanc is not the equivalent of “cheap”.
The Montblanc CEO explained in the 2013 interview that the company’s brand is aimed at people who lead a refined and cultured lifestyle and is intended to reflect their creativity and passionate personality.
The brand also offers exclusivity to the most high-end customers who want something rare and unattainable for most people. It offers made-to-order fountain pens as well as its Limited Editions range which creates rarity and exclusivity in the luxury market.
Even Montblanc’s standard Meisterstück pens are iconic because they are given as gifts to mark special occasions or used to sign documents concluding major business deals. Owning and using a Montblanc pen is just that little bit special. The company also sells the Starwalker and Montblanc M range of pens discussed below.
Montblanc Pen Ranges and Pricing
The Starwalker range includes ballpoints, fineliners, and fountain pens, while the Montblanc M range included a ballpoint and a rollerball as well as a fountain pen. According to the company’s website, the fountain pen is the most expensive of the three types, and the price is $1,585.00. The Montblanc M range has a more modern design than the traditional Meisterstück range.
It also sells a limited range of PIX pens that are rollerballs and ballpoints. The PIX black ballpoint sells for $240, while the rollerball is $285. The problem with buying Montblanc rollerballs and ballpoint pens is that you will have to continue to purchase only Montblanc refills. The beauty of their fountain pens, if you don’t buy one that uses only cartridges, is that you can use a wide variety of inks made by other reputable companies.
Limited Editions are much more expensive than the Meisterstück. For instance, the Patron of Art Homage to Napoléon Bonaparte Limited Edition 888 fountain pen sells for $9200.00 at the time of writing. Some of the lower-priced Limited Edition fountain pens, such as the Peggy Guggenheim 4810, the Patron Of Art Homage To Moctezuma 4810, and the Patron of Art Homage to Napoléon Bonaparte 4810, are just over $3000.00.
The Limited Editions include a Rollerball Pen Writer’s Edition Homage to Victor Hugo 1831 that sells for $4,100, a Writer’s Edition Homage to Rudyard Kipling Ballpoint pen that sells for $860.00 and a Great Characters Miles Davis 1926 Rollerball that costs $3,535.00.
Meisterstück pens vary in price from around $415 for a ballpoint to just over $2000 for a fountain pen. There are numerous rollerballs, ballpoints, and fountain pens to choose from within the Meisterstück range. The tastefully crafted Special Editions range is dedicated to famous people such as John F Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Walt Disney, James Dean, and George Gershwin. It includes ballpoints, fountain pens, and rollerballs.
There is a wide range of Montblanc pens to choose from in both the standard and Limited Edition range, and collectors particularly prize the latter. The bespoke pens made by the company include a pen with a barrel made of tobacco leaves for a cigar enthusiast. Montblanc’s Writers Editions are made in honor of famous writers, such as Ernest Hemingway and Franz Kafka, and are also sought after.
The Montblanc Museum in Hamburg contains a room dedicated to its Limited Editions where the pens from its Writers Editions are displayed along with a sample of the relevant writer’s handwriting. Montblanc has strong associations with art and culture and has cultivated this image over decades.
Montblanc pens are some of the few that can increase in value over time. One of the most desirable pens, the Limited Edition Boehme Papillon fountain pen, is set with diamonds and sapphires and costs around $230,410. Only six were made. The Prince Rainier III Limited Edition 81 fountain pen, set with diamonds and rubies, is priced at slightly more than a quarter of a million dollars, and only 81 of them were made.
The Mystery Masterpiece by Montblanc and Van Cleef, and Arpels is one of the most beautiful pens ever made. It comes in three variations, one with rubies, another with sapphires, and the last with emeralds. Only three pieces of each variation were made. Its price tag of around $730 000 is therefore not surprising.
The Johannes Kepler High Artistry Stella Nova Limited Edition 1 has 5294 sapphires and 570 diamonds and sells for around $1.5 million. It is dedicated to the astrologer and astronomer Joseph Kepler, and the Ophiuchus constellation is engraved on the nib. The pen is one of a kind, and the jewels in it are set in patterns that mimic the Milky Way. It has three white gold rings that symbolize Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion.
These top-of-the-range Montblanc pens are exquisite pieces of functional art or even jewelry, not mere fountain pens. They are in the same category as gem-studded necklaces or luxury watches. Montblanc offers something for everyone, and all of its writing instruments are meticulously crafted.
Craftsmanship Goes Into Every Montblanc Pen
According to Montblanc, the production of high-end writing instruments involves many different steps ranging from the initial technical drawings for tools to hand assembly of the final product. The individual components of their fountain pens go through various departments such as metal-working, electro-plating, injection-molding, and nib manufacture. The nibs are made of gold and bear intricate designs.
The company says that crafting its products by hand is one of its greatest pleasures, and it believes that each piece must have a story, purpose, and meaning. It, therefore, distinguishes its brand from other mass-produced and purely utilitarian pens that are intended to be disposable items. The emphasis is on craftsmanship and lifetime value. There are around thirty-five different steps in the nib manufacturing process alone, and many are done by hand.
The nibs are made from a flat gold ribbon into which a machine stamps out the basic nib shape. After this, the nib is engraved, plated with rhodium in the case of a 149, and tipping material is welded onto it. This material is usually a combination of different types of platinum. It is chosen because it is highly abrasion-resistant, although difficult to machine. Some nibs from the 1920s and 1930s are tipped with iridium and still write perfectly today.
A slit is cut in the nib to make it flexible feed ink to the tip. The tipping material is polished to make for smooth writing at any angle, and this is done by hand. It’s a skill that takes years to refine. All nibs for Montblanc pens are polished in this manner.
After the nib tip has been polished, it undergoes a writing test using a figure-eight pattern. This is also done by hand and requires a certain mastery because the way a pen writes can depend on the writer’s emotional state. Evaluating the feel of a nib is subjective and depends on the person doing the test.
Montblanc also makes bespoke nibs that fit the customer’s personal writing style – for a price. The company uses sophisticated digital tools to make its writing instruments. It consults expert designers worldwide on the use of various materials such as resin or leather to create unusual pens.
Montblanc Pens Have Built An Enviable Reputation
Over the years, Montblanc has acquired a solid reputation both for the pens themselves and after-sales service and replacement parts. When spending that much money on a pen, you want to be sure you can get a new nib or have it repaired if it suffers an accident.
Montblanc has also made a point of associating its pens with prominent writers, personalities, and scientists over the years. “Meisterstück” means “Masterpiece”, and Montblanc has been making versions of it since 1924. The pen’s branding and positioning in the luxury goods market mean it is sought after by a wide range of people, not just stationery enthusiasts.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was visiting Germany when he and Konrad Adenauer, the German chancellor at the time, had to sign a guestbook. Adenauer did not have a pen with him, so Kennedy offered the chancellor his Montblanc Meisterstück 149.
Winston Churchill, the famous English Prime Minister, was a fancier of Montblanc pens. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his mastery of historical and biographical description and oratory in defending exalted human values. Later, Montblanc honored him with the Montblanc Sir Winston Churchill 53 pen, one of which was recently sold by an auction house for twenty-two thousand pounds.
James Bond used two sterling silver Montblanc 146 pens in the 1983 film Octopussy. Naturally, the pen was modified by Q to contain a secret listening device and a powerful acid. Although they did not have the Montblanc branding with the famous star-shaped snow cap, the company was given special thanks in the credits.
Presidents Obama and George H W Bush have been seen using the Montblanc Meisterstück 149, and actor Johnny Depp has publicly endorsed the company and also owns a 149. The pen has acquired the nickname “Power Pen” on Wall Street because it appears on the desks of some of the most influential decision-makers in the world.
Over the years, Montblanc has issued limited edition pens called Writer’s Editions. The Writer’s Edition Hemmingway pen is dark brown and coral red. The cap has gold-plated mountings and a gold-plated clip, on which Hemingway’s signature is engraved. The nib is hand-cut 18-carat gold.
Montblanc pens make a personal statement about the writer. Fountain pens, in particular, are usually acquired by people for whom the act of writing is itself significant. You consciously have to seek them out as they aren’t available in the local corner store. When you see what goes into making a Montblanc pen, careful craftsmanship, meticulous attention to detail, quality control, and unique designs, wouldn’t you be prepared to pay a bit more?