As is often the case with companies who have survived more than 100 years, the Montblanc known today began with an overwhelmingly wonderful idea. August Eberstein, and engineer from Berlin and Alfred Nehemias, a banker from Hamburg. Joined forces to make simplicissimus pens. It was 1906, and Germany was embracing new inventions and ingenuity. Simplicissimus is Latin for “very easy”, and that’s what these inventors wanted for the new type of fountain pen they envisioned.
What distinguished the newly designed pen was that it had a built-in ink well. New partners Claus Johannes, Christian Lausen, and Wilhelm Dziambor took over the foundational business and propelled the company to international success. The emerging company was noted for its manufacture of highest quality fountain pens. By 1908, the business had established headquarters in Hamburg and was officially registered as a company.
First of Its Kind
Just one year later, the Rouge et Noir was marketed. It was the first safety fountain pen, and it included the name “Montblanc”. Company lore describes the name as alluding to the highest mountain peak in the Alps- Mont Blanc- because it was the pinnacle of all writing instruments at the time. Supposedly, a relative of one of the company founders described this analogy during a card game. It was considered an inspiration, and the name remained forever joined with the company.
In 1910, the company registered the name “Montblanc” as its trademark and the first Montblanc fountain pen was introduced with a white cap. The new pen was technically improved over the first pen and was marketed in London and Paris. By 1913, the Simplo company had adopted the white rounded-star logo which represented the snow-covered peak of Mont Blanc and stood for committed to the finest quality of European craftsmanship.
The Meisterstück fountain pen was launched in 1924. Meisterstück is the German term for masterpiece, and this attention to quality allowed the company to expand into 60 countries that year. In 1929, the Montblanc Meisterstück received a new embellishment. Its nib was engraved for the first time with the numbers 4810. These numbers represent the height of Mont Blanc. The company also viewed the numbers as symbolic of supreme quality. From this time forward, all the Meisterstück pen nibs would be engraved with these numbers.
Only five years later, in 1934, the company rebranded itself with the name Montblanc Simplo GmbH. Just one year following, the company began to offer lifetime guarantees for its Meisterstück pens, and this encouraged the reputation that customers would reap the highest benefits from investing in an expensive writing instrument.
World War II was devastating for Montblanc, as all its facilities were destroyed. However, the company rebuilt quickly and produced its pens in Denmark during this time. The company also re-established its foreign offices. After the war, in 1952, the 149 Meisterstück fountain pen was introduced. The number 149 refers to the nib width, and other versions such as the 146 indicate narrower or wider nibs. The nibs are made of gold, and this ensures they will last for a lifetime of writing. This legendary pen became the symbol of writing culture. Many consider its design to be a perfect blend of style and function.
In 1963, former President John F. Kennedy offered his Meisterstück pen, a 149, to German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The event in Cologne, Germany was captured in a historic photograph, with Kennedy handing his pen to Adenauer to use when signing a German “Golden Book” (Guest Book in English).
The Meisterstück Solitaire Collection was introduced in 1986. The collection featured the inclusion of precious metal; paired with the marketing slogan “Montblanc – The Art of Writing”. This collection accompanied a resurgence in the use of fountain pens which took place during the decade and ultimately provided the company the increased opportunity to support international sponsorships in ballet, music, and literature. Montblanc also established a new office and the Montblanc Museum in Hamburg that year.
The next addition to the Montblanc Meisterstück line included two exquisite pens honoring the arts. The Lorenzo di Medici Patron of the Arts Limited Edition and the Hemingway Limited Writers Edition were launched in 1992. These collector’s pens became the first of annual limited editions.
Diamonds and Celebrations
The 1994 Solitaire Royal fountain pen, set by hand with 4810 diamonds, was the most expensive Meisterstück on the planet. The Meisterstück Sports collection was released in 2000. Following in 2006, Montblanc celebrated its 100th anniversary with releases of new pen editions throughout the year. The company had a diamond cut into the iconic Montblanc logo-a first in the world of diamonds. When the 90th anniversary of the Montblanc Meisterstück took place in 2014, celebrations included the release of the 90 Years Design pen, which was made in Classique style with black resin, and red gold fittings. The nib was engraved with the number "90" commemorating the landmark anniversary.
Montblanc Limited Editions
These fountain pens are Montblanc’s tribute to the arts and culture and are crafted with precious materials by master craftsmen. There are several categories of Limited Editions, and each as its own focus:
Patron of Art
Established in 1992, the annual Montblanc de la Culture Arts Patronage Award has been the reason for creating a new fountain pen honoring those who have contributed immensely to the arts. Lorenzo di Medici was the first pen in this series. Recent additions have included Peggy Guggenheim, Luciano Pavarotti, Henry E. Steinway, Ludovico Sforza-Duke of Milan, Joseph II., Gaius Maecenas, Elizabeth I, Max von Oppenheim, Francois I, Sir Henry Tate, Alexander von Humboldt, Pope Julius II, and the Homage a J.P. Morgan. These Limited Editions are 888 pens only.
While the First Issue in 1992 honored Hemingway, recent issues have included William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Honore de Balzac, Jonathan Swift, Carlo Collodi, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Cervantes, Franz Kafka, and Jules Verne.
First issued in 2009, these pens honor great figures in history. Miles Davis, Andy Warhol, John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Alfred Hitchcock, and Mahatma Gandhi are some of the honorees. Each pen includes distinctive styling to match the personality of each Great Character.
Focusing on legendary 20th century muses, these are intended to have the same elegance and irresistible personalities as their namesakes. Princess Grace de Monaco, Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, and Greta Garbo are included.
Classical and contemporary musicians are honored with these pens. A purchase guarantees that Montblanc will donate part of the proceeds to support the musical arts. From Johannes Brahms to John Lennon, there are several musical geniuses celebrated in this collection.
From Marco Polo to Pablo Picasso, the pens in this collection are inspired by those who set cultural and historical milestones.
Beginning with the Rouge et Noir 1906, inspired by history, and recreated to fascinate modern sensibilities, this collection includes exclusive materials and decorations.
Signs & Symbols
The newest Limited Editions collection is comprised of the Eastern zodiac signs. The Water Dragon and the Rooster are currently available, and Montblanc will issue one new zodiac sign each year until the 12 zodiac signs are complete.
The 2018 Montblanc Meisterstück Petit Prince
This new pen collection was introduced at the World Trade Center Observatory on April 4, 2018. It is a celebration of the beloved novella Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The book describes how the truly beautiful things the world has are felt, rather than touched or seen. The 1943 story celebrates imagination in much the same way Montblanc does. The Petit Prince was produced with a brand-new engraving process which allowed the smallest details to be included. A golden star, a laser engraving of a sentence from the story, the sage fox, and the Little Prince are all included with artistic use of lacquer, resin, and fittings coated with platinum.
While any of the Montblanc Meisterstück pens are priced from hundreds to thousands of dollars, those who own them appreciate their beauty and their easy writing capabilities. Limited editions of high-end pens exemplify the Montblanc spirit with inspired extravagance. The melding of imaginative designs with finest materials and craftsmanship has resulted in the finest writing tools. It has been so with Montblanc from the beginning.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker