Let me start by making this important point: I am not a Montblanc fan.
So, enter the reincarnation of the Rouge et Noir.
This is a pen that insidiously draws out the procrastinator in me.
· It’s tantalisingly within reach (compared with the coral Heritage 1914 that I love but will never afford).
· It’s not the standard modern fountain pen (which makes sense given it’s modelled on a vintage one) and difference is always appealing
· It comes in different options: Do I really want the coral (orangey/red) or do I want the black with the coral filial?
· It’s thin; is it too thin?
· Will I hate it?
I was ready. Prepared. The girth. The colour. The photos on-line. … OK, I get it; but I want it; so let me at it already!
It IS thin.
But look at that finial;
That nib and
That clip .
This really IS a special pen.
APPEARANCE AND DESIGN
“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing”. Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Ernest
Enter stage left, the Rouge et Noir (and it has to be romantic, it’s French!).
My general preference in fountain pens is for big pens with wide girths. The paroxysms of joy wrapped up in my last review of the Classic Pens LB5 should make that clear enough. The Rouge et Noir does not fit this profile.
The Rouge et Noir (and I really love the name) IS a thin pen.
Perhaps it is because it is so thin that it conjures the Quill in a way that broader pens cannot. There is something propitious about the combination of its narrow girth and its stretch that bodes well for the writing experience ahead.
Based on the eponymous Rouge et noir Safety Pen of 1906 (110 years ago – I know, I’m a maths genius!), the new Rouge et Noir captures time and imagination and places it in your hand (sorry, that really sounded like a marketing blurb – but it does).
This sense of history flows all over the Rouge et Noir; but mostly plops in the cap.
What a cap!
It starts with the snake or serpent clip. The new term for “precious resin” is “special alloy metal”, but whatever it’s called, the undulating flow of the clip as the serpent’s body secures itself to the top of the cap is mesmerising.
The green jewels in the eyes of the serpent (only available on the coral) deliver the hypnotic attraction of Rudyard Kipling’s Kaa in Jungle Book singing, in the Disney version, “Trust in me”… Even the scales of the serpent serve to reduce its gleam and increase its cachet.
Moving above the serpent to the filial we are presented with what some social media commentators have called “the pudding”.
The pudding is a fabulous reference to the banana custard of the Monty star spreading across the filial and down on to the pudding. On the top of both the black and coral versions of the Rouge et Noir sits this coral coloured filial topped by the melting star in cream. On the black version of the pen this is especially fetching as it contrasts so beautifully with the black of the rest of the pen. On the coral version the filial simply continues the homogeneity of the design throughout. What is special about this star is its connection with vintage Montblanc fountain pens. Newer Monty’s have smaller stars, and generally white. The cream (or ivory) again evokes another era, another time, deceptively another piece of history in your hand (the serpent’s work again – it’s a modern pen). That link with history is again evident in the use of the old Montblanc brand logo (again in cream) on the cap.
|Shameless repeat of a photograph used above - I just like it!|
Then we move to the silver section. On the good side, the silver is almost more of a gunmetal colour than a bright silver; so it’s not too jarring to the eye. Even so, I’m not a silver section fan. Given the length of this pen, I think the idea of breaking up the colour is not a bad one; but a Bakelite-type colour in the coral, or even black, would have been a better choice (and there’s proof in the “pudding” if you look to Monty’s Hermingway or the Delta’s Dolcevita).
|This was a little experiment a friend with a Black Rouge et Noir and myself performed for a Melbourne Pen Show. Check out especially the bottom combination here - it's a Hemingway light!|
WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS
The Rouge et Noir boasts a svelte span of around 9mm (the cap is about 10mm). Combined with the length (capped around 135mm; uncapped around 128mm), this exaggerates the long and slender form of this historic Monty suggesting it may be on its way to the basketball playoffs!
|From left: Sailor Realo (special edition); R&N, Montblanc Hemingway.|
It can post (and re-bound); but it’s a shallow post, makes this basket-baller a real string bean, and doesn’t really work with the balance of the pen (although it can be handy if you want to keep looking at that spectacular cap).
The cap itself takes up only around 46mm of the 135mm length; which again adds to the sense of stretch.
|Comparison with a Karas Kustoms Bolt (for no real reason other than fun)|
If you are a regular reader you’ll know I don’t weigh my pens. I can say however the Rouge et Noir has some weight to it; which makes it feel more substantial than it’s diminutive girth might suggest. Not too heavy, just heavy enough to make it feel like a significant pen; and to balance well in the hand when writing. Oh, and it looks great sitting in that hand too!
NIB AND PERFORMANCE
The look of the nib is one of the reasons I chose the coral rather than the black Rouge et Noir. The coral has a two-tone 14 k rhodium-coated nib with the serpent’s head in gold, which provides subtle relief from the silver/grey of the section. The black version of the Rouge et Noir has a single tone nib. The diamond shape of the serpent-head adds subtly to the flow of the nib and combines well with the triangular breather hole.
The Rouge et Noir nib takes its design cues from the Heritage 1912 (my favourite Monty nib) with the diamond breather hole – a shape I really like. This time, in proportion to the pen width, the nib seems smaller. But I was surprised when I compared them to find that they are essentially the same size (with some subtle variation: the 1912 appears to be a touch wider and the breather hole a touch bigger).
My Heritage 1912 has a medium nib that writes beautifully with a lovely touch of bounce. I heard tell that the broad nib version was even better so this time I went for the broad.
From out of the box there is something not entirely right about this nib. There is perhaps a touch of baby’s bottom, an off-and-on hard-start, a sound when I write that is almost a squeak. Whatever it is, while I can feel a little of that 1912 bounce, this nib needs some tweaking. The line is nice enough when I write and while the ink is flowing (and I like the broad); but it doesn’t elicit the same subtle rise to the corners of my mouth that is the gift of the Heritage 1912. I’ll get this Smith-i-fied in time ( Nibsmith.com ); but a little disappointment in a still big purchase for a premium pen.
The “piston filler” description for this pen is a perfect match for its “precious resin” and “special alloy metal”. This pen is more likely a captured converter. I have nothing against captured converters; I just wouldn’t call them piston fillers. In mine, the knob has just a touch of slack as well (just a fraction of a millimetre or so). Regardless, we are not talking huge capacity, but still not bad. A little sneaky here on the marketing side.
COST AND VALUE
The Rouge et Noir takes Montblanc away from its standard designs (the 149, 146, etc) into the territory of its special, writers, limited editions without asking the buyer for the same level of budget commitment. That is a good thing. Of course it’s a Montblanc so it’s not an inexpensive pen; but for what is being offered, this is a good buy and a great effort.
The Rouge et Noir is a fountain pen definitely worth having on the acquisition agenda. Yes, there are elements to it that are not for everyone or for everyday, but it is still a special pen.
00-50 = to be avoided at all costs
51-60 = if it’s cheap and you don’t really care….
61-70 = a nice pen with the makings of something better (just don’t spend too much)
71-80 = A better than average pen with just a few flaws that stop it from being really good
81-90 = A good pen, a keeper only a few minor places off being great
91-95 = Now THIS is a pen! If you can get it: keep it, love it, cherish it, and keep it away from the dog
96-100 = Grail