SciLux MontBlanc 11/10/17
Luxury Writing Implements With MontBlanc
Few brands of writing implements can claim a loyal following. Unfortunately for the manufacturers and designers of these utensils, for most of us, a pen is a pen. One mark, however, has been transcendental in its obsession of fine writing implements - able to blur the line between utensil and fashion - and demanding a price.
This story of MontBlanc runs adjacent to many narratives. The industrialization of Germany in the late 1800s, the history of education, the history of the fountain pen, the beginning of the modern era, and the rise of contemporary engineering.
Founded in Hamburg, Germany in 1906 by a banker, Alfred Nehemias, and an engineer, August Eberstein, MontBlanc was positioned to leverage a change in a dying, super-saturated market - slow, dip pens. The dawn of the industrial era did more than expand manufacturing, it gave common people free time, and the ability to be more productive with the use of new technologies and machines. Consequently, a larger section of the population was attending school and university - taking non-labor jobs in fields that required the efficient transfer of information to match the new efficiency of the era.
The world needed a replacement for the "dip" pen (think fountain pen, but you have to dip it in a reservoir of ink). MontBlanc had the answer. Now, it is important to remember that while Montblanc was an important player in the fountain pen game, they did not invent the fountain pen. The modern fountain pen had been developed and patented by Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru in 1827. So if MontBlanc did not initially pioneer new technologies in the fountain pen arena why is MontBlanc commonly associated with the finest, most thorough-bred fountain pens? To find the answer to this question we must learn of three men, Wilhelm Dziambor, Christian Lausen and Claus Johannes.
Dziambor, Lausen, and Johannes purchased MontBlanc in 1910 set on creating the finest writing implements in the world. They envisioned their pens being used by titans of industry, engineers, physicians, and lawyers. To convey their mission to the public as well as align their business with luxury, the trio created a tagline for use in advertisements "The Pinnacle of Writing Implements." In order to differentiate their product from the pens of other manufacturers, they designed a white, stylized six-pointed star on the cap of the pen, that would remind the user and onlooker of Mont Blanc (altitude 4808m and a prominent peak often discussed in popular media at the time). Prior to MontBlanc the obvious branding of writing utensils was not commonplace. Some manufacturers even thought the practice to be disrespectful to the craft. MontBlanc, however, did not back down. They continued to use the peak of Mont Blanc as well as the powerful imagery associated with the "The Pinnacle of Writing Implements" to market and sell their pens.
While the success of MontBlanc does not come forthright from their engineering prowess, or their inventive spirits, the source of their success is equally or arguably more impressive. MontBlanc was able to tell a story, to allow their customers to participate in a symbol of popular culture, and show off their luxury taste to their peers in an understated manner. They created a brand around their product in an industry they had been previously largely unbranded.
So, does a company like MontBlanc count as real, authentic luxury? The answer is complicated. Starting in the early 1980s, MontBlanc has been used by its parent company, the Richemont group, to peddle all sorts of "luxury" accessories. I recently stopped by a MontBlanc store in an airport in Vienna. I was was in the market for a new fountain pen to replace my well loved Lamy 2000. After I had viewed some of the pens, the salesperson turned to a line of leather briefcases and wallets. Picking them up, I didn't feel as if I was holding anything special. I swear I could almost feel the cardboard inside the folds of the leather briefcase, giving it shape. That being said, the pens are quite nice. Definitely a contender for someone looking for a "flashy" luxury pen. My tastes tend to be more utilitarian. I will always choose a design that makes sense from any perspective (whether that perspective be manufacturing, cost-benefit, sales, or engineering) before I chose a gold or silver plated something or other. Luxury - yes, tasteful - at times.
Do the product created by MontBlanc spare no expense? Yes, for their premier lines, but their mid level lines are obviously engineered to a cost. MontBlanc pens can easily dip into the thousand dollar range. Do you want a solid gold pen with some random diamonds embedded on its rim? Maybe you do, for those of us who don't their is always Bic.