Four Cartridges For Four Colors: Montegrappa’s Cult Q1
by Nancy Olson
Based in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, pen brand Montegrappa introduced a variety of great-looking, highly crafted pens at the 2015 edition of Baselworld. But the one that really caught my eye was the Q1, which is in the company’s Cult series and a first in the world of pens.
Cult heretofore comprised the Chaos, designed by brand ambassador Sylvester Stallone, and the Batman collections. Interestingly, both these earlier collections include a watch as Montegrappa made its debut in the watch world several years ago. (See ‘Batman v Superman’: DC Comic Hero Immortalized By Jaeger-LeCoultre, Romain Jerome, And Montegrappa Timepieces for more.)
Not so, for the Q1, or at least not yet.
The limited edition Cult pens are neither for the faint of heart nor the conservative of taste. The designs are bold and “out there,” and may even be considered kitschy by some. In the case of Chaos, for example, the celluloid pen’s hefty overlay – rendered in sterling silver or 18-karat gold – focuses on the juxtaposition of life and death, with its imagery of reptiles and skulls and clip in the shape of a sword.
But look a little closer and you’ll see all the beautiful details for which Montegrappa is known like sculpted precious metal, hand engraving, the use of celluloid, and hand painting. Also, the pens (fountain or rollerball) are quite balanced and comfortable, which is not an easy feat of construction for such a large pen.
The Q1 follows suit in its boldness. According to company literature, it marries “ultra-tough and hard titanium for the pen’s barrel with titanium and fine Italian leather for the pen cap. Stainless steel has been employed for the internal parts of the pen, while tradition demands that an 18-karat gold nib with the filigree Montegrappa logo is fitted at the writing end.”
What’s so revolutionary about the pen is its unique multiple ink cartridge loading system that allows the user to change ink colors (a choice of four) mid-sentence via a mechanism similar to that of a bullet cylinder of a firearm. Two years of research went into it, and a patent for the loading system was awarded.
What about the feeder?
My first question, though, was a practical one. “What about the feeder?”
The feeder is the small “finned” device made from plastic or ebonite residing directly under the nib of a fountain pen. Its job is to hold ink at the ready to offer a consistent supply to the nib as needed. If you’ve ever flushed out a fountain pen to clean it, you know that quite a bit of ink collects on the feeder, and it takes more than a simple run under the kitchen tap to clean it out.
Since the Q1 possesses multiple ink cartridges presumably for various colors of ink but only one feeder, I was concerned about the residual ink. Well, Montegrappa thought of that, too, and includes a cartridge-shaped “syringe” specifically designed for cleaning the feeder before a different color ink is set in place. But being the rebel that I am, I skipped the cleaning step and rather liked the slow-ish transition of one color of ink to the next as my writing flowed across the page. Blue turned to a lovely purple, then a clear red.
To carry the firearm metaphor a bit further, the pen’s cap locks onto the barrel with a slot-and-pin system, and the timber box in which the pen is presented is reminiscent of an ammunition case.
In addition to the pen, the box holds a pair of gloves, a set of tissues, and three cartridges of eight different ink colors for a total of 24 cartridges.
During a Baselworld 2015 interview, Montegrappa CEO Giuseppe Aquila shared that in addition to pens and watches, the famous Italian logo will increasingly be found on other lifestyle products including eyewear, luggage, fragrance, and small accessories like cufflinks. But pens will always be the heart of the brand, he says, since this is the product upon which the company was founded.
I visited the manufactory in Bassano del Grappa in northern Italy years ago and then again after it became part of the Richemont Group (in 2009, the company returned to the Aquila family’s control). The picturesque region has been home to Montegrappa since its very beginning in 1912, and though it employs state-of-the art systems to perfect its pens today, there is much that is unchanged.
The original workshops on the banks of the River Brenta remain intact, as do the artisanal methods used to hand-finish each pen by craftsmen who understand the importance of time and talent.
For more information, please visit www.montegrappa.com.
Barrel and cap: titanium and Italian leather
Nibs: 18-karat gold
Limitation: 100 pieces