under-pretentious: montblanc meisterstuck 144 fountain pen
As the silvery dawn rises, clouds start to appear overhead. They’re a darker, colder ash grey, speeding off to the north. A beautiful mug of coffee steams the window, filling up the room with its sweet scent. The cold seeps in through the window, it chills your hands and climbs in between your shoulder blades. Even when you’re warm and bundled up in your home, the infuriating February cold manages to find a way in.
To me, vintage pens seem to be a whole hobby into themselves. Some people are avid collectors, diving deep into specific years, makes, brands… It’s amazing to see the range and the sheer variety when fountain pens were the writing instrument. There seems to be a line, where this sort of “vintage” pens ends around 1960’s, when the ballpoint took the main stage. The rest seems to be “modern.” Well, if those are modern, with the nowadays popularity of fountain pens, I try to call them “contemporary” to make a little more distinction.
This matters to me because I really like 1980’s and 1990’s fountain pens. They have a more similar feel to pens after 2000’s in most cases, rather than “vintage,” and their price makes them extremely attractive. It seems like they sit at a bit of a weird spot: they don’t have the specific characteristics that make older pens more attractive -such as celluloid, cool filling mechanisms, nib variety, flexible or softer nibs, etc- but they don’t have the newness factor of the pens from past 20 years or so. So they’re familiar, and easily accessible.
Honestly, my favourite.
This Montblanc Meisterstuck 144 (also called the Classique) is a good example of that. This pen was made with a piston filling system and a screw cap until 1960, like rest of the Meisterstuck range. Then, got its current form with the cartridge-converter system and the snap cap. It seems to have been made until 2004 or so. Afterwards, to make tracking down of this model especially confusing, the “Classique” name was given to the 145 model, a slightly larger pen.
My 144 has a two-tone nib that’s smooth, yet not very soft. Even though the slightly upturned nib makes for a nice writing experience, it doesn’t have much character. Well, that means it’s quite forgiving to write at any angle, making it perfect for writing on my lap or on a cramped table. I found that even though the nib is certainly not dry, it does benefit from a well-flowing ink. I’m not sure exactly which one it was, but it had J. Herbin Vert Empire that was on the drier side. It showed lovely shading.
Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-jaku makes for a smoother writing experience, even on toothy paper like Midori. I tend to dismiss Iroshizuku inks as very basic inks, even when they surprise me when I ink them up. Perhaps they just don’t photograph very well, and the flow and shading make up for it in-person. Every single one of them have been beautiful and not even close to anything else I own. I digress.
Anyway, the Iroshizuku inks are well known to be pretty great, I should rather continue on the 144’s nib. The reliable flow of this nib makes me want to put it on par with Pelikan M400 (the one I have is also from 90’s) or the Aurora 88 (90’s strikes again), but the lack of character makes me hesitate a little. It lacks character in a softness and variation sense, the feel of it is quite characteristic in my opinion. If I was blind folded and I was handed pens, I could probably tell you that this is the 144. For some reason, the only way I can think of to describe how this nib feels is cheerful. It’s a fun little nib, happy to be along for the ride. It can be said that its heart makes it up for the lack of “character.”
Well, it’s a fun little nib for a fun little pen. It’s a very slim pen, much thinner than any other fountain pen I own. It’s more like a pencil at the narrowest part of the section. This puts it narrower than the Kaweco Sport, even though its length is similar to the Pelikan M400 or the Sailor Pro Gear Realo. The size lends itself to being carried around pretty well, it’s ready to go after I clip it into a single pen pouch and throw it into one of the pockets of my bag.
The weight of the pen is also on the lighter side, which is helped by the fact that it doesn’t have a piston mechanism. It came with a Montblanc branded converter, and I’m pretty sure it’ll take regular international cartridges or converters too. Though, the best part of this pen is its snap cap. It has my favourite snap cap out of all the pens I own. It’s just so satisfying. There’s a bit where it slows and its quite cushioned and then it finally snaps into place with a little click. I love it. The cap functions great to keep the nib from drying as well, it was completely fine after several weeks, which is something I’m more worried about with snap caps than screw caps. Though, my other Montblanc also has a tendency to unscrew itself in the pen case, so perhaps snap caps are a better idea.
For the size comparison above, the pens (left to write for the top one and bottom to top for the bottom one) are: Sailor Pro Gear Realo, Sailor Pro Gear Slim, Aurora 88 Big, Pelikan M400, Montblanc 144 and Montblanc 146.
One word of caution I kept hearing with this pen was that the plated collar ring right above the nib is prone to corrosion. Mine also does have some spots of pitting. The constant exposure to ink is not very good for metal parts. As far as I know, this is only cosmetic and the collar should function fine. No complaints from me so far, even though this pen has been constantly inked for over 4 months now.
I had always wanted a West German pen, because I grew up reading too many spy novels and I wanted a bit of that for myself. You cannot believe how happy I was when I saw that little “W. Germany” engraving on the side of the cap. This pen just keeps on giving and I cannot get enough of using it, even compared to its larger brother 146. The proportions also seem so much more elegant and the weight distribution makes it more comfortable for long writing sessions.
Thank you for reading! Though I heard some people call this the “entry level” Montblanc due to the price, I want to say that this pen needs a bit more thought before buying. The size and weight will disappoint you if you are expecting a showy, heavy “luxury” pen. You really need to know what you’re getting into, and honestly, most people would probably be happier with a 146. If you’re looking a small pen more reminiscent of old “lady pens,” this pen is more for you.
I’ve been listening to some bossa nova playlists recently, so I’ll link to one this week instead. Lately, I started listening to music from Youtube a lot more than on Spotify due to the images they use. I like putting them up on the screen while I work to daydream for a moment like I’m in a cozier place or by the sea when I’m working…