Pen Review: Montegrappa Fortuna White & Ruthenium
Filling System: Standard International Cartridges/Converters
Length (Capped): 136mm
Length (Uncapped): 125mm
Length (Posted): 159mm
Section Diameter: 11.1mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 13.5mm
Cap Max Diameter: 16.7mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 26g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 38g
When the Apple iPod swooped onto the market back in 2001, it took the MP3 world by storm. While it did a lot of things pretty well, one of the things that really separated it from the pack was its design. Lead by now-famous industrial design Jonathan Ive, Apple’s first generation iPod ushered in an era of clean, slick, futuristic-looking industrial design. It was streamlined, with only a flush click wheel and four buttons (that would eventually be reduced to only the clickwheel and one button), and it focused on simplicity and starkness in extreme contrast to the other button-laden, crazy-colored, funky-shaped MP3 players of the day.
The magnitude of this change in the industrial design space and its impact on future design aesthetic cannot be overstated. It changed the way we define what looks “modern,” and its effects are still in evidence today. One of the places where you can see the after-effects of the Apple iPod is in the design for Montegrappa’s Fortuna White & Ruthenium.
Named after the Roman goddess of fortune, the Fortuna White & Ruthenium is part of Montegrappa’s Resin line of pens. It’s made of an opaque white resin, highlighted with black metal (Ruthenium-plated, one would assume). The pen features a clean line, unlike most Italian-made pens, but is all the more eye-catching for its bright, white simplicity. The Fortuna comes in other finishes, including a white and rose gold, black with rhodium, ruthenium, and rose gold trim, or blue with rhodium or rose gold trim. It is the White and Ruthenium version, though, that exudes that 2004-era iPod design feel. (There is also a “skulls” version of this pen. I seriously do not understand the appeal of a fountain pen covered with skulls. I guess somebody is buying them, though, because they keep making them. You’ll never find one in my collection. Blargh.)
The top of the cap features a black, metal medalion with 1912 (Montegrappa’s year of founding), laurel leaves, and a crown. The clip, again, is black and streamlined, with a very slight hourglass shape, ending in a small roller. The cap swells outward slightly as you move toward the black metal cap band, which features the engraved word “Montegrappa.” The barrel of the pen continues toward a slight, sweeping taper which terminates in a flat end.
The cap is held onto the barrel by a set of black metal block threads. Montegrappa uses this type of threads often, and I don’t like them (the threads, that is.) The metal block threads were the reason why I ended up returning my Montegrappa Espressione: my grip always ended up sitting directly on these threads, which are supremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, the section of the Fortuna is long enough (and nicely shaped, to boot) that I never find myself holding the threads. My experience has also been that these metal block threads do not do a great job sealing up the capped pen. As a result, the Fortuna tends to dry out/crust up more easily than other pens.
The section tapers down in a graceful line to a black nib featuring the name “Montegrappa” and an intricate tile-like design stamped into the nib face. The pen is a cartridge/converter pen, and comes with both a Montegrappa-branded converter and a couple of Montegrappa short cartridges. Montegrappa converters and carts follow the international standard, so they are interchangeable with a large number of converters and cartridges from other manufacturers.
In the hand, the Fortuna feels quite nice, although it is a bit on the heavy side. The walls of the resin are pretty thick, and the section is lined with metal, giving some heft to the nib end of the pen. The white resin is very smooth, but maintains a slightly semi-gloss or satin finish rather than a high-gloss mirror shine. The resin also has a bit of a “cold” feeling to it, very different from other plastics or rubbers (like Ebonite).
Unposted, the balance is not too bad, and comfortable in my hand. The pen can be posted, but I find doing so makes the pen a little too heavy, although the balance doesn’t seem to be impacted too horribly. I should note that the cap only posts via friction, and I have had the cap pop off from rubbing up against the web of my hand, so it’s not the most secure posting of all time.
This is only the second Montegrappa nib I have had the opportunity to use, and like the nib on the Espressione, I found the steel nib on the Fortuna to be…fine. Nothing special, but nice. I consider this consistency to be a good thing, actually, because at least you know what you’re getting. The nib writes well. I had no issues with the standard problems you might see: The tines were in alignment, there were no hard starts or skipping. I saw no sign of ink starvation on long writing samples.
That being said, there were some characteristics of the nib which didn’t get me bouncing up and down in my seat. For starters, the nib is hard as a nail, which is to be expected for a steel nib. At a list price of nearly $300, I would have loved to see a 14k or 18k nib with a bit of bounce. The nib has a moderate ink flow, but with a line width that is almost a full size narrower than you might expect from a European nib based on its designation. The nib is a bit toothy as well, as though the outer margins on the nib weren’t quite polished all the way into a “round” state. Most of these issues are easily adjustable, however, so while the nib didn’t cause me to break into a verse of the Hallelujah Chorus, it certainly fit into the “good” category.
One other minor complaint I have with the pen is about the white section. Because the pen doesn’t have a highly-polished surface, sometimes it can be a bit of a pain to clean all of the ink off of the section after filling the converter through the nib. The ink will usually come right off in water, but if you’re trying to do a dry wipe with a cloth or paper towel, you may still end up with a couple of inky indents on your grip fingers from holding the section.
Overall the Fortuna is a nice, if not insanely enthralling, pen. The design is clean, streamlined, and unobtrusively attractive, but it follows a contemporary design aesthetic. It is a pen that feels modern, not a throwback to an older design or older time. It feels very nice in the hand, and writes quite well, but the nib isn’t the most wonderful I’ve ever seen, which is disappointing for a pen of this price point with a steel nib. (If you’re going to charge this much for a steel-nibbed pen, that nib better be incredible.)