I have been thinking about expensive items quite often recently. This is in part because I have been fascinated by the inflation that has taken place since the vaccine has been released and life has started getting back to normal, but it is also because of a YouTube series I found from Forbes called “So Expensive.” You can break down expensive things into four categories: expensive items that are upgraded versions of cheap stuff (like the Cadillac Escalade), luxurious versions of a normal thing (like terry cloth robe), expensive items because of branding (like Hermes flip flops), and then things that cannot be replicated for less money (like Persian rugs, which, by the way, are incredibly fascinating). While you may be tempted to think of the Meisterstuck 146 as an upgrade, luxurious version of a normal item, or brand driven, it is none of those. This is an item that is expensive because it does something extraordinary that cannot be done by less expensive things.
The 146 creates a supernal writing experience. Over and over again, the word that comes to mind when using this pen is “flow.” In both the moving of a liquid sense and the timeless focus of pure concentration sense, the 146 taps into a feeling of flow. And that, more than anything else, is what a pen should do. It should disappear and simply be an extension of your brain—thought to paper with no barrier. Thanks to a fundamentally sound design, a superior nib, and excellent fit and finish, the 146 is an effortless pen that converts though to paper, all with the sense of ease and…well…flow.
The Meisterstuck is a legendary piece of kit, a pen with a history longer than many countries. Mont Blanc has been making Meisterstuck pens since 1924, longer than all but four countries in the Americas have existed in their current form (Agentina, 1853, Canada, 1867, Mexico, 1917, and the United States, 1789). There has been a lot of ink spilled and zeros and ones dedicated to the White Cap’s staple pen (side note reviewers: it is not a snowflake, but an abstraction of the snow cap on Mont Blanc, the Swiss mountain). Some of it focused on their insane branding of “precious resin” which seems to be plexiglass. Some of it focuses, naturally, on the incredibly high price. There is a lot written about the nibs (foreshadowing: for very good reason). Suffice to say this review will just be a drop in the bucket. My hope is that it will be useful to you because it will be written in the Everyday Commentary style using the scoring system and looking at the pen from the perspective of everyday carry, not how fancy (or plain) the box is that it came in.
Be clear—I have EDC’d this pen frequently and in rough places like jails. I have not babied the pen, other than dropping it into a Nock Co case at the end of everyday and using MB ink exclusively (I was already using MB ink exclusively before I got the pen—I love me some Pacific Blue). I took notes at a week long trial with it exclusively producing close to 400 handwritten pages over 8 days. I feel like I know this pen well.
Also be clear—I could not afford a pen this expensive without serious savings and dedication. The 146 is the smallest Meisterstuck pen, but it is still very pricey at around $500 in its fountain pen form. The 146 is an extraordinary tool, more Snap On than Panerai, in the spectrum of luxury goods. It also happens to possess the best nib I have ever used. This is a piece of kit that is incredibly pricey, but completely justified in my mind. Read on to find out why.
Here is the product page. Here is a written review of the 146. Here is a video review of the 146. There are too many iterations and variants to name or catalog. Here is my 146:
Twitter Summary: The best writer I have ever used.
Nothing but absolute Platonic perfection. The black resin, gold furniture, and cigar shape tell you that this is the Icon in the same way that the Spydie hole tells you the knife is from Golden, Colorado, USA, Earth. Sure, it is not flashy or innovative, but it is memorable for being the originator of the form. Its been in production for almost 100 years. Don’t believe me that this is a great design, believe the objective and virtually infallable test of time.
Fit and Finish: 2
One thing that is interesting about the pen world compared to the knife world is that pens that have abysmal fit and finish, like anything made by Twsbi, are still highly regarded. Its not that fit and finish don’t matter, but writing experience trumps everything. I am not sure why this is the case. I think it is admirable that folks care so deeply about the primary purpose of the tool, but a little more focus on how its made and how it goes together would be nice. Folks regularly purchase the roughly $199.95 Lamy 2000 despite perennial problems with the nib. If there is one thing I wish the pen world would change, it is the acceptance of garbage fit and finish.
Fortunately, the 146 has no such problems. In fact, its fit and finish is so good that it was the first difference I noticed when upgrading. Every fountain pen I have owned—every single one—has had some small issues, things, that until I owned and used the 146, I though were endemic to the form. As it turns out, you can make a fountain pen that never drops ink in the cap or spits a bit of ink when refilling. The 146 is like a potty trained child—a neat, revelatory upgrade from its less mature peers.
As THE fountain pen, you won’t find much to complain about here. Unlike some of the larger pens from Mont Blanc or other companies (Sailor’s King of Pen, for example), this is a reasonable sized pen. The result is, of course, better carry. The clip is effective and attractive. The shape allows for easy retrieval. Fortunately, the weight is great too, because, in large party, the “precious resin” body tube is very light, almost as if it were made of highly polished plexiglass. 😉
Black tube with gold furniture is not the most radical or inventive design choices. But it is a classic for a reason (that reason being, of course, this pen). Like navy suit with burgundy Allen Edmond Park Avenues, the appearance of the 146 just looks classy. Its worth spending a few words on Mont Blanc’s logo, something I could normally care less about. In this case, however, the logo actually has a function and that is noteworthy. The snow cap design is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful, iconic, and clever logos in the world. It is the secret handshake of pen addicts everywhere. More than a few knowing head nods have been sent my way when another discerning pen person saw the 146’s cap. Its been a conversation starter a few times and those conversations have resulted in professional relationships. That’s a logo that has a function. I am not sure whether it is a good sign or a bad sign that the logo has this effect—and I am being invited into a snobby club or are fellow enthusiasts just happy to find a kindred soul? Either way, this is something I have never encountered with another piece of kit. I wonder if Rolex wearers have this happen? My Dad owns a Corvette and they have a secret acknowledgement, so I am being positive and thinking that it is like this.
I was deathly afraid that this refined writing tool was going to be as fragile as butterfly wings, but just over two years later, it is still going strong despite going to very rough and dirty places to take notes. I will say that I am extra careful with this pen, making sure to carry it on my person and never in my bag, unless I am going to court (magnatometers and all). That said, it has taken hundreds of pages of notes in all sorts of places, and it has held up remarkably well.
Writing Performance/Refill: 2
“Blah, blah, blah…just get to the point, how does it write?”
No pen I have used has written like this. My custom modded nib on my Lamy 2000 is good, but this is better. There is an ease and a quickness to this pen that I have never encountered in another fountain pen. It starts instantly even after weeks of disuse. It never requires a redo. And there is ZERO skipping. The pen just flies in my hand, like a thoughtless extension of my fingers. Its that good. The line, is, of course, clean and even across the page, especially when paired with Mont Blanc ink. I have inked this up with a few inks, including Noodler’s Baystate Blue, and all work well, but the viscosity of the MB Pacific Blue pairs perfectly with this nib and feed. If the snooty logo is a perk, this is the real reason to own an MB. Their nibs are great and the 146 is just the perfect size to make that nib sing, the writing equivalent of an aria.
Balance/In Hand Feel: 2
Plexiglass…er…precious resin is pretty light and durable. The balance here is accentuated by some excellent ergos…no weird shapes or awkward ridges or threading. Like many things with the 146 the shape is a classic for a reason.
In some of the higher end fountain pens because of the girth of the barrel and the size of the nib you get a bit of the “dialing a phone with a broomstick” phenomenon. Here you feel like you are right on the page, allowing for excellent grip and pinpoint control. In many ways, compared something like the King of Pen, this feels like a nimble Hot Hatch instead of a lumbering 2 ton hyper car. I like that. Especially when the fleet writer is as good a performer as the bigger stuff.
There is nothing here that distracts from the notion that this pen is the Platonic Ideal of fountain pen. Sure, silver trim might be more in than gold trim, but when you have the classic, why not go all in on being that classic? Here, despite my general preference for silver furniture, I actually like the gold on black look. I don’t think I’d say the same for my Lamy 2000, but that is an entirely different pen with an entirely different look.
The cap posts well, comes unscrewed in a quick turn and half, and has an excellent pocket clip. It also happens to be graced with the MB logo. Really great.
Fidget Factor: High
I can make flourishes forever while waiting on hold or sitting in a meeting and thanks to the resplendent nib the process is as fun as pens get.
Fett Effect: Low
Despite its genteel provenance, this pen and the materials hold up well. Not only that, but they don’t so much wear either.
Let’s not mistake singular performance with good value. When the average pen is about $3, a $500 pen is exorbitant. Imagine a $5,000 folder—that’s the knife equivalent of the 146 and while it too may be a supernal token of craftsmanship and design, it can never be a good value.
Score 20 out of 20; PERFECT
I don’t have a lot of $500 fountain pens, so this section is really not worth writing. Compared to my Lamy 2000, even with its custom nib, the 146 still writes better, but that is about all I feel comfortable writing on comps. The Sailor King of Pen is as good at putting ink on a page, but it lacks the in hand feel this pen does because of its prodigious dimensions. I would be remiss in not mentioning the Vanishing Point, which is significantly cheaper, but also sports a gold nib and is a bit of a design icon itself. If you are a gadget-obsessesed human, the Vanishing Point is pretty darn good, though I think the nib on the 146 is a skosh better. If you enjoy Tolstoy and the 9th Symphony, this is your pen.
Mont Blanc 146
Mont Blanc Pacific Blue Ink
Noodler’s Baystate Blue Ink