Pen Class: Premium ($200 to $400)
Street Price:: $236
Body Material: Resin
Nib Material: Steel
Nib Size: Fine, Medium, Broad
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Filling Mechanism: Cartridge / Threaded Converter
Ink Capacity: 1mL
Overall Weight: 40g
Cap Weight: 12g
Overall Length Capped: 138mm
Overall Length Posted: 175mm
Body Length (including nib): 120.5mm
Nib Length: 17.4mm
Section Diameter: 8.7-9.7mm
Body Diameter at Ink Window: 13mm
If this pen were a movie, it would be…
The Blue Lagoon (1980)
Stephen: 8.0 – A cream colored outer box, which opens up to reveal a grey box that holds the pen. For a second, I wondered whether the inner box was made of actual leather, but I assume it’s faux leather. Everything on the inside of this box feels remarkably soft to the touch. The pen comes with two short international cartridges and a converter, and a fairly standard booklet with the history of Montegrappa and filling instructions. Upon leafing through this booklet, two pages immediately fell out, which left a somewhat cheap impression – but I don’t care much for these booklets anyway.
The sparkling blue pen is secured in the middle of the box by a fairly tight strap, and its radiant color contrasts nicely with the cream-colored insides of the box. I thought the packaging was pleasantly luxurious for a pen at this price point.
Dan: 7.25 – I was pleased with the packaging and presentation of the Espressione. It seemed appropriate for a pen in this price range, not too cheap but not overly extravagant, either. The only thing that really stood out to me was the Montegrappa branding on the cartridges and the plastic sleeve the pen comes in. I guess they don’t want you to forget what brand of pen you just purchased.
Stephen: 8.0 – A standard cartridge converter, nothing we haven’t seen before. It operates smoothly, and it draws up ink – that’s all there’s to it.
Dan: 6.75 – There’s nothing too crazy going on inside the barrel. The Espressione uses the common international sized fitting for cartridges and a threaded converter that seems to be of slightly higher quality than any other converter I’ve used. Montegrappa decided to go with a threaded converter, which I like, as long as they’re not proprietary, because I’m always assured of a secure fit when attaching them.
There is one interesting little bit to this Montegrappa converter and that’s what’s inside it. What appears to be a tightly wound coil of wire is free to slide around inside the converter. At some point Montegrappa must have discovered that ink was being held up in the converter and not making its way to the feed. This metal “ink freer” helps keep a continuous flow from the converter to the feed.
Stephen: 8.0 – It is impossible not to notice the vibrant blue color of this pen; it has great marbling effects, and I found it a very intense and pleasant blue to look at. It’s fancy without being overly flashy. Also, the silver-colored highlights work really well with the blue.
The nib is impressive: it’s a medium, it’s smooth, and it offers a bit of line variation (not bad in a steel nib). My only feeling is that the nib is a little small for the pen. Then again, the section ends fairly narrowly, and a bigger nib may have looked out of place.
Dan: 7.5 – The Test Drive went better than expected, mostly because of how well the nib performed. The Cobalt Blue resin is an eye-popper with a lot of depth and had me just staring at the pen for a while after I removed it from the box. It really helped make a good first impression.
I filled the pen with some turquoise ink and got down to business, which quickly turned into pleasure.
Stephen: 8.5 – The nib is simple, but attention was paid to the details. The meander-shape that appears on the octagonal cap band returns on the nib. The nib also states Montegrappa and M. To my eye, it looks like the ‘M’ is laser-engraved, but I could be wrong.
Dan: 8.25 – Montegrappa decided to fit the new Espressione with a #5 stainless steel nib. I’m not keen on a #5 sized nib being used on anything larger than, say, an Edison Encore, but the imprint design on this pen is so good that I’m willing to let it slide. I just really like the Greek frets and the Montegrappa script. I think it’s clean, simple, and visually pleasing.
The size of the nib really has no impact on performance, it’s merely an aesthetic choice. Montegrappa has actually done a good job integrating this nib into the pen. The section tapers down nicely to the nib. Some manufacturers don’t take this into account and create a pen with a large section that’s comfortable to hold, then shove a #5 nib in there which looks completely out of place.
Speaking of the section, it is a bit thin. As I mentioned in my Hands-on with this pen, the section varies in diameter from 8.7mm to 9.7mm, comparing that to the Parker 51 which measures 8.25mm to 11mm at the clutch ring, we can see just how thin it is. But, it’s not uncomfortably thin, even for someone like me who prefers large pens like the Delta Dolcevita. The weight of the pen helps make the pen’s thinness less of an issue.
Stephen: 8.5 – The pen delivers. I inked it up, cleaned the section, and even dried the nib carefully – but it wrote immediately. No hard start whatsoever. The nib is smooth, but I did notice a touch of feedback. This does not seem to be the type of nib that glides effortlessly across the paper like a skater over ice, but that’s okay. By no means is the pen scratchy; it just gives a little feedback.
The section is pleasant to hold, and barrel threads don’t get into the way of your middle finger. In fact, the threads are quite wide and not sharp at all. I saw a similar design on my Stipula Model T, and I love it: these threads are pleasant to the touch and won’t cut into your fingers.
Dan: 7.75 – If only every pen wrote as well as the Espressione out of the box. What a (pen) world we would live in!
It’s not that there’s anything magical about the nib, it’s not flexible, it’s not a stub, it won’t make you espresso on command…it just writes like it’s supposed to. Believe it or not, that’s actually a pretty difficult task for manufacturers to achieve. The medium nib writes more like a fat fine, but is as smooth as anything I’ve ever written with. Flow wasn’t dry, but it wasn’t particularly wet, either. It was as neutral as a pen could be. The flow was consistent and not once did I experience a hard start.
The cap can be removed from the section in 1.5 rotations and posted in just short of 1 ¼. The clip looks good, but requires two hands to use, even with the rolling wheel on the end.
Refilling the pen is a simple affair requiring only 5 rotations of the barrel to access the cartridge or converter.
Stephen: 8.5 – Thought went into this pen: the cap is crowned by a diamond in the same material as the barrel and cap, and there is a flat inlay of that material at the end of the barrel too. The cap band is octagonal, and if you look at the top of the cap, you see a restrained eight-sided motif on the clip ring too. The clip itself has a nice little wheel at the end; I don’t think this makes it easier to put the pen in a pouch/pocket, but it sure does make it easier to remove it from either.
I love how the cap band is flanked by a metal ring on both the cap and on the barrel: it looks balanced this way. I do think the cap band looks a little like a nut (that would keep a bolt in place), but with the nice meander motif on there, it looks quite nice. I love how the cap screws into the end of the barrel for secure posting: I often wish all pens had that. When screw-posting the pen, the nib and clip align fairly well (not perfectly), which makes for pleasant aesthetics.
One minor issue I have is that the pen gets quite top-heavy when posted: those threads at the end of the barrel are a blessing as well as a curse. As the cap doesn’t slip over the barrel, it seriously weighs down the end of the pen. The pen is big enough for me to use unposted, though, so it’s not a big issue for me.
Dan: 7.5 – There’s one thing I have to mention right away: the design of the Montegrappa Espressione looks like a high end kit pen. It has a long, thin section, a large, abrupt step from the section to the barrel (9.7mm to 13mm), and the end of the barrel is square and blocky.
But, Montegrappa has added some attractive details to the design so the “kit pen” look isn’t so prominent. First, the Cobalt Blue resin is used in the barrel end and the crown of the cap to accent the pen. At the end of the barrel is a little strip of blue resin, then a metal band, then the barrel. I like that. The octagonal cap band with black enamel-filled Greek frets does a good job of breaking up the boring-shaped cylinder that is the cap and barrel. The roller clip is eye-catching and the bevel on the edges are a nice little detail. Perhaps my favorite part of the pen is the Montegrappa script above the clip that’s filled with black enamel and the subtle scallops around the top of the cap.
The design of the Espressione is pretty conservative, especially in the black smoke resin. The Cobalt Blue is really as bright and wild as you can get with this pen. I think it has mass appeal, which is good for a pen in this price range.
Stephen: 8.0 – As far as I’m concerned, every detail on this pen works. Everything is nicely rounded off, even the edges of the octagonal cap band aren’t sharp. The blue material is gorgeous and appealing, and the pen is a joy to hold.
I also like the non-obtrusive placement of the word Montegrappa on the clip ring: it’s undeniably present, but it doesn’t jump at the user.
Finally, that octagonal cap band is extremely useful: it’s aligned well with the clip, so that you can rest the pen on your desk, clip upwards, without being afraid it will roll off. One of the sides of the octagon keeps the pen stationary.
Dan: 5.0 – This is really the only area where Montegrappa failed to execute. Just going over the pen without a loupe I was able to spot a couple of problem areas. The first being a small piece of the black enamel filling in the Montegrappa script above the clip and a couple pinhole-sized spots in the Greek frets on the cap band were missing. The other issue is that at the end of the barrel the little strip of resin, the metal band, and the barrel aren’t perfectly flush. Not only can you feel the edges of each ring but as you rotate the pen you can see they’re not centered around a common axis.
I understand that not every pen that rolls out of the factory is going to be perfect. But all anyone would have to do is just look at the pen before they put it in the box. I shouldn’t be able to discover these kinds of flaws with the naked eye on a pen that retails for $295.
Stephen: 7.0 – I put in my ear buds and switched on some Melkite chant by father Maximos Fahmé, grabbed a Rhodia dotpad and a pad of G. Lalo Vergé de France – and took off. In all honesty, I was a little disappointed with the pen’s performance for two reasons.
Firstly, the pen skipped a little more than I’d like. This seemed to be mainly an issue on the Rhodia paper, so perhaps the nib just doesn’t get along with very smooth papers. I used the boy scout among inks, Waterman Florida/Serenité Blue – but still, the pen skipped more than occasionally on the upstrokes of y’s and g’s. Then again, it wasn’t terrible: maybe once every four of five sentences. My general impression was that the nib was a little dry overall, so perhaps some nib tuning might help here (but that shouldn’t be necessary on a pen of this price level).
Secondly, and I did find this to be a major issue: although those barrel threads aren’t sharp, there is a very annoying ridge on the end of the barrel, just below the barrel threads. This ridge started to dig into my skin after a few minutes of writing, and it got more annoying as time progressed. I started with the pen posted, but found it too top-heavy for me, so I unposted it. Then I started to feel that annoying sharp edge, and, after about fifteen minutes, I posted the pen again and grabbed the barrel instead of the section – and then all was peaceful in the jungle. I should point out that I tend to hold the section quite highly, so this sharp edge may be no problem for normal people, who hold the pen the way it’s supposed to be held.
In all, the writing was quite smooth. I kept noticing that little bit of tooth, but as I said before, I didn’t think it was particularly annoying. I also loved the weight of the pen: excellent as far as I am concerned – neither too light nor too heavy.
Dan: 7.5 – The Road Trip did two things for me, it confirmed that the nib is just as good as I thought it was going to be from my experience in the Test Drive, and that the section is a bit too small for me.
I started the Road Trip using Rhodia dotPad paper and noticed skipping that I didn’t experience during the Test Drive. So I grabbed my Rhodia Uni Blank pad and see a skip at all. This isn’t all that surprising to me because I’ve noticed this same experience with several other pens. I also tried it in my Star Wars Moleskine, which does have significantly better paper than regular Moleskines, and the Espressione performed just fine so I’m a little hesitant to blame the pen.
At about the 18 minute mark my hand was starting to cramp up a little due to the thin section. By 21 minutes I was glad to be able to take a break and shake things out. If I had continued on from here I probably would need to pause between every sentence to let my hand rest. I don’t get along well with pens with thin sections and I think the only reason this pen was as comfortable as it was for so long was because of its weight. For the majority of the test I used it with the cap in the posted position which really helped it to settle nicely into my hand.
|Writing quality||Nib sizes run small|
Famous Last Words:
Stephen: I would buy this pen more for its general aesthetics than for its writing performance. It’s a nice pen, but the quite fine medium nib and the sharp edge near the barrel threads put me off a little.
Dan: I got a lot more from this pen than I was expecting. While there are a few areas where the pen can be improved, namely the detailing such as the black enamel filling, I was surprised is wrote as well as it did. This isn’t a pen I can recommend to everyone like I do with the Lamy 2000, but if you’re interested in a Montegrappa then the Espressione would be a good introduction to the brand.
This pen was provided for review by Kenro Industries.