Objectophilia is when you form a romantic attachment to an inanimate object. But then, people fall in love with things all the time. With their cars, their boats, their homes, but is it possible to fall in love with a pen?
After owning the Montblanc 149 for more than a decade, I can say: it is possible to love a pen.
The Montblanc Meisterstück 149 is the standard all other pens are judged against and for very good reason. These pens are excellent writers, are made with incredible consistency even across decades, and have absolutely beautiful, hand-tooled nibs that offer a truly exquisite writing experience.
Even those who are not fountain pen users know Montblanc and recognize the white six-sided star logo at the point of the cap. Sure, this makes it a status symbol, but it still is an excellent pen.
Let’s dive into all the reasons why the 149 is the flagship of the brand’s regular offerings and see if it is worth investing almost a grand for it.
Montblanc 149 Pros and Cons
If you’re a bit too busy to read a three thousand-word love letter to a pen, here are the pros and cons.
- A legendary pen of nearly historic relevance (yes, JFK even used one)
- An absolutely transcendent nib of classic beauty, brilliance, and incredible effect.
- An efficient and integrated fill mechanism
- One of the largest nibs available for a truly unique writing experience
- Montblanc has a ton of online courses you can take for handwriting and calligraphy, so excellent brand support
- They also have servicing available, if there is trouble with it down the road
- 2-year warranty is reassuring as is the 6 week window for a nib swap
- Marriage-endingly expensive
- The edge of the cap is unprotected, so do not drop it
- Although classic, a relatively boring design
- Should the piston fill fail, a professional servicing is required
- Nothing denotes the nib size on the pen or nib, except for the calligraphy nib, so if you have multiple pens it is difficult to tell them apart
Montblanc had a far less marketable name when it was founded in Germany by three partners in 1906. The Simplizissiumus-Füllhalter pen company doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. It was renamed later as the Simplo Filler Pen Company GMBH in 1907. This company produced a pen in 1910 called the Montblanc that eventually became the company’s name.
Montblanc is pronounced correctly as “Mon-Blan,” to the utter disbelief of most English speakers who want to cling to those snappy consonants. So it’s a German company with a French name, now owned by the Swiss Richemont Group as of 1993. Richemont also owns Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Chloé, and Blume et Mercier. It keeps very good company.
The “Meisterstück” line dates all the way back to 1924 a designation for their top-of-the line pen “Meisterstück” (Pronounced “Meister Stook”) being German, of course, for “Masterpiece.” The company now uses this term for all of their top of the line offerings. I found 291 hits on their website, including wallets, key fobs, bags, and I stopped searching when I saw a Meisterstuck fanny pack.
The six-pointed white star logo appeared on a pen in 1913 and became the Hallmark of the brand. It isn’t actually a star, but rather a representation of the snowcap glacier atop Montblanc from an aerial view.
This is not the only reference to their namesake on the pen: since 1929 they have been engraving their nibs with 4810, the height in meters of Montblanc.
So over time, each element of the modern Montblanc 149 fell into place resulting in a pen that is the pinnacle of design and efficiency. The Montblanc 149 as we know it, was introduced in 1952 and has changed very little in overall design since then.
Early models had cellulite components and split ebonite feeds, yet were clearly recognizable as 149s. Versions from the 60s, 70s, and 80s were made of plastic and have an interesting vintage dull appearance. Modern pens are made of resin using a secret formula.
Sources differ on what the “149” stands for. One source says that the 1 is for Meisterstück, the 4 for piston-fill, and the 9 corresponds to the size of the nib. I had always thought that it was tied to the length of the pen, but it is 147.3mm, so there goes that theory. The pen that is the next size down is 145.8mm and it is known as the 146. It is more of a traditionally sized pen and a great option if the 149 is too large for your taste.
Now that we’ve covered how this pen came to be, let’s get into its design.
[Learn more: How to Buy Your First Fountain Pen]
Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Design
It has a timeless design that for many is the essence of a fountain pen. If you asked someone to draw a pen, it would look a lot like this.
It is often called a cigar-shaped pen, and I feel that description works for its overall shape if one imagines a cartoon shaped cigar, tapering at both ends. This pen certainly has a lot of girth and desk presence.
The pen’s thickness of approximately 13mm feels thick, but also comfortable. The thickness allows for the fingers to be less cramped, making for a very relaxed and enjoyable writing experience. Its length of 165mm, posted, rests gently on the crook of your thumb. This makes writing and controlling this pen a joy. I often reach for it for extended writing sessions. (Yes, I have those.)
The balance of the pen makes its 32 grams feel quite light, although it ranges toward the heavier side of pens.
This pen comes in three trims: gold (perhaps the most classic), rose gold (as everything must be), and platinum (for those who want to pay extra for a more understated look, and then spend the rest of their lives telling everyone that it is indeed platinum). The gold trim is the most classic.
Let’s start at the top. The cap terminates in an inlaid logo of white resin forming a rounded six-sided star glacier. It then slopes down to a ring of gold-plating securing the clip around 12mm down. The clip has a raised center bump for the first quarter of the length, a beveled edge, and a rounded point. The clip has a lot of tension, is snappy, and has a well-formed catch beneath perfect for clinging to shirt pockets.
I clip it successfully quite frequently to shirt materials, either in the placard or at the pocket, and more infrequently these days, the breast pocket of a sports coat. It handles with alacrity. I would not force it over a material as thick as a jeans pocket.
Beneath the clip are three bands of gold with the center band much thicker and engraved with “Montblanc Meisterstück No.149” and “Pix®”. The “Pix” designation is an anti-counterfeit measure. The meaning of the word is under some contention. It appears to be a registered line of writing instruments associated with Montblanc going back several decades.
Beyond this band is the one design flaw. The edge of the cap is resin and there is no ring of gold there to prevent chipping if the cap were dropped. A cap can even pop off from the back of a posted pen, so this is something to be aware of and to be careful. You do not want to drop your cap, or your pen, ever.
The barrel, or body, of the pen tapers away from the cap and the sleek, black, glossy flow of it is interrupted by a single gold band 18mm or so from the bottom where the mechanism for the piston fill unscrews. It is 132mm in length.
The cap is threaded and two full turns uncovers the grip and nib. This is a relatively quick opening, but still requires quite a bit of screwing on and off all day. For this reason, I think of it as more of a journaling pen and less of a quick note taker. A snap cap is better for those occasions.
I can say that the cap does affix firmly and so there is none of that gradual loosening that happens with some pens in pocket. In over a decade of writing with it, I have not had a single incident of the cap unscrewing and then nib bleeding ink stains in into my shirt pocket.
The relatively wide threads at the bottom of the grip area offer excellent traction for anchoring your fingers. The grip flares before the nib with a raised ridge so your fingers will not slide off and into the nib.
Above these threads there are many ink level windows like the cells of a Zoetrope when you turn it in your hand. These are invisible when the pen is completely full and as it empties you suddenly remember that they were there and they are quite lovely in their rectangular transparency. The internal space of the pen is the ink reservoir, so with these so far back it is more like the low gas warning on your car with all that reserve gasoline to burn. Yes, you are running out of ink, eventually.
The nib is impressively large and boldly engraved. It is a number 9 nib and is much larger than most other fountain pens. It is crafted of 18 K gold with a platinum inlay. There is a lot going on here.
Framed by decorative swirls engraved in the platinum, the bottom of the nib has the Montblanc name in capital letters. Then the company symbol. Above is the Au element name for gold and the 750 popular in Europe to signify its 75% purity, certifying it as 18 K gold. Above is Montblanc’s glacier logo with an M in the center for Montblanc and not for the fact that it is a medium nib. Then the distinctive 4810 for the height of Montblanc. It is a spectacular creation and truly one of the most beautiful nibs I have ever seen.
The nib comes in a variety of sizes to suit all writing styles: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, & Broad are commonly available. If you contact Montblanc, you can get a custom nib in Double Broad, Oblique Medium, Oblique Broad, & Oblique Double Broad. Their flex nib also known as their calligraphy nib is available from time to time.
The best way to decide which nib suits you is to stop by one of the Montblanc boutiques that are in most major US Cities. They usually have a few pens available that you can demo. Also, you have 6 weeks after purchase to conclude that you made the right choice. Within that time you may switch out the nib for another choice.
Somewhat annoyingly, Montblanc does not mark their nibs as to which size they are. When they come in their boxes, they have a little gold sticker on them saying “M” for medium or whatever is relevant. Of course you remove this, and if you have several, it is very difficult to tell them apart.
The feed beneath provides a generous ink flow through a beautiful structure that is often overlooked. There are rows of narrow fins for flow regulation that look a bit like the gills on a shark. Be gentle with these. They perform a function, even if we understand which function in only the broadest of terms.
Each element of this pen’s design adds up to one of the most iconic pens available, a pen that has signed treaties, correspondences, journal entries, statements of great import and consequence.
Now, let’s turn a critical eye to the materials.
[Read more: How to Clean Your Fountain Pen]
Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Materials
The 18 K gold nib with its platinum inlay is stunning and all of the finishing is perfect. I have had my pen for over a decade and have worked it hard: taking it with me to work countless times, traveling with it to several countries, keeping it in my bag, sliding it across my desk. It has some surface scratches, but none of the gold plating has worn away. That is impressive.
Is the Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Plastic?
Yes, maybe, and no. Modern versions of the 149 are made of their proprietary “precious resin” This term has become a selling point in their line of pens and both means more and less than what is implied. It is most likely a direct translation from the German that would have been better translated as “high-quality” resin, but in any case, one is underselling it if you call it simply plastic.
It may be more accurate to call it “proprietary resin” since many brands have their own secret recipes for what they make their pens from and Montblanc similarly has their own. Using everything from organic materials to cotton, to get different visual effects like shininess or color or depth, or a different feel like the body of the pen retaining warmth and it having less sweatiness in the hand.
Some amateur tests have uncovered what may be silica in the mix to give it shine and reportedly it breaks like fiberglass with tiny shards everywhere; a sight I hope I never see.
Whatever it is, it is a proprietary mix of substances in a resin base designed to resist scratches and to feel very nice in the hand. This is where it is most successful. Some pens feel very cheap or plasticky. The Montblanc almost feels organic and holds your warmth as you write with it adding to the experience.
Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Fill System
Another excellent aspect of the 149 experience is its fill system.
This pen uses an internal fill mechanism that unscrews from the back of the pen. To fill an empty pen, immerse the nib into the ink up to the section. Then, unscrew the mechanism twisting the knob at the back and then screw it back down without removing the nib from the ink. I find that this draws in the maximum amount of ink.
Now, gently remove the nib from the ink and hold an inch or two from the top of the bottle. Gently unscrew the mechanism a little bit until three or so drops of ink drip from the nib. Priming the nib in this manner is less popular now, but I find it does the best job. Now screw the knob all the way down. Wipe clean with a lint free cloth. I find that a microfiber of soft chamois works best.
The internal fill mechanism is very effective and draws quite a bit of ink into the pen. The pen holds 2.7ml and that is a lot of ink, several weeks for most people.
The efficiency of the piston fill is best demonstrated when you clean it. To clean, simply fill wish water as you would with ink. You will find that the 149 will flush itself clean with 3 or 4 fills. Impressive.
Internal piston fill mechanisms are my favorite types, since they have immense ink capacities and have a certain integrated simplicity that I find appealing. However, there is one major drawback: should it fail, it will require a professional service for all but the most intrepid fountain pen owner. Montblanc itself will service a pen for a cost depending on the repair needed. New pens are guaranteed for the first 24 months from purchase.
Now that we covered nearly every aspect of this pen, let’s talk about what a pen like this can do for you.
Montblanc Meisterstück 149: The Writing Experience
This pen offers one of the most amazing writing experiences, and it all comes down to the nib. Nibmeisters can do a lot with gold nibs. You can make them soft and flexible, springing, or stiff. This one is very sensitive to very small applications of the lightest pressure.
I find I can get line variation not by applying pressure as you would expect, but by working in the minute zone between writing on air and writing with the loosest hold onto the paper. The nib is barely against the grain of it and rolling away in swirls, posts, and curls of a discernible width and wetness with my medium nib and then backing away to fine as I attempt to write in the air above the paper, yet somehow still managing legible lines as fine as silken strands. This is a nib for those who could write on tissue paper, and not for the heavy-handed.
The nib is responsive and expressive, making your handwriting interesting and intriguing. This is why I constantly return to this pen. It is so expressive, so satisfying to use.
I frequently go back to things I have written and some are remarkable for the quality of my handwriting in them and the interesting lines the pen has drawn. Frequently, that pen is the Montblanc 149.
The pen balances extremely well in the hand. Writing with it is very comfortable with its girth. I allow it to lie atop my two fingers and the crook of my thumb and even at 165mm it doesn’t feel long or back heavy. It is carrying 2.7ml of ink and so there is additional weight to that, but it never feels heavy, but it does have substance, which I prefer. Fountain pens are generally between 20 and 35 grams and this one is 32, so it is definitely toward the heavier side, yet I would never call this a heavy pen.
The pen barrel is 132mm, long enough to write unposted, if you prefer. It is comfortable this way, but I usually post it. Posting does scratch the body of the pen over time, so keep that in mind, but this is true for nearly every pen.
Now that we have discussed what is amazing about this pen, what is the cost of entry?
Is the Montblanc Meisterstück Worth It?
Discussing value for any expensive object is a sticky subject and perhaps even more prone to pitfalls when the lower range of that object is free. I mean, banks are literally handing out pens to people and begging them to take them. What could possibly motivate someone to spend $975 USD for the gold version and $1,000 for the platinum? Let’s just call it a thousand dollars for a pen! So, it’s time to talk value.
First of all, if you have to ask that question, you are probably not the target audience for this pen, and I am not speaking about affluence. There are always those willing to throw down any amount for anything to impress.There are sneakers that cost over a grand. There are also fountain pens that cost into the tens or even hundreds of thousands.
What I am speaking about are those travelers in the realm of fountain pen experience that are always curious for something unique. For them, $1,000 is the price of entry and they are willing to pay it to have the Montblanc experience, or to simply add one to their collection. So the value is there for those who enjoy writing and obsess over each little aspect or for those who simply want to have a Montblanc pen.
Also, there are other luxury pens in the marketplace that are similarly priced, so it is not as if this is the only $1,000 pen. The Visconti Homo Sapiens is $956. One of these is made of resin mixed with Lava from Mt. Etna. The Sailor 1911 King of Pens is $950. Each of these have their own compelling reasons for owning them.
Although not rare, these pens frequently do sell out with certain nibs and finishes. They also retain a certain amount of value. I’ve never seen a used Montblanc in any condition for less than $500 with $600 being the norm.
I am unsure if it is exactly reasonable to spend this much for a pen, but it hasn’t prevented me from doing so, and I am nearly certain I will again. I find joy in these pens. I use them. I have carried this one with me for over a decade. It was with me in Venice when I got engaged to my wife. I had it at the hospital with me when my daughter was born. I have spent countless hours journaling with it and I enjoy writing. If you do too, then you understand.
Am I in love? Objectophilia indeed.