Friday, August 12, 2011

Montblanc Writers Edition 2009 - Thomas Mann Review

The WE Thomas Mann is the latest addition to my writer’s edition collection. It was a late birthday gift from my wife. She was aware of the collection that I have and for some reason, this was particularly hard to find. However, she managed to secure it and kept it as a surprise for me. With so many great pictures taken and published here in the forums by our fellow members, my expectation was high and it did not disappoint. I have a feeling it will probably be my newest WE for a longer time as I’m not too keen with the latest offering of the WE line for this year, but that’s a story for another day. Today, I’ll like to share my joy and satisfaction of this writing instrument, one that instantly became my favorite in my collection.

Sealed in a standard Writer’s Edition box, WE Thomas Mann has one of the more attractive cover design on its packaging. Inside it, the lacquer finish gives a beautiful shine, with its silver inlays giving just the right amount of touch of aesthetic to it.

One of the more understated pen in the WE line, I’ll rank this along with Dostoevsky, Voltaire, or maybe Kafka. The platinum inlays reminds of the architectural and design elements of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, an architect who lived in the contemporary era of Thomas Mann. I can relate to the aesthetic which the design derives on, based on Modernism movement during that time, that focus on simple lines and economical elements, emphasizing on the beauty of its natural mass/form rather than using ornamental or patterns. I’d imagine it would fit in perfectly in a photo shoot in one of Mackintosh’s interior designs. If the design intent is to evoke the art movement during that era, it has accomplished it extremely well. I’d like to see more design like this with a concept and meaning, rather than just casual aesthetic. It just gives more depth to the product. The clip is platinum plated with and onyx colored zircon stone, adds a bit of interest to the whole composition.

I deemed any lacquer finish pen as more superior to PMMA or ‘precious’ resin, given the better depth of color tone, durability and the solid feel when holding it. The platinum inlay adds more interest to the finish and actually gives more depth to the surface. The lines on the cap and barrel lines perfectly when capped, another proof of a well engineered instrument. However, I suspect not all parts are made of lacquer. The piston knob feels ‘light’ compared to the rest barrel, and has the amber glow under a reading light suggesting that it may be made of resin. I have no complains at all on the choice of material here but compared to the WE Shaw or Twain, the knob doesn’t have that smooth turning feel. In fact, it has a rather coarse almost like grinding feel to it when I turn it. I think Shaw has a better constructed turning knob design (made of lacquer with platinum plate caps) compared to this.

The heavier than resin feel gives me more confidence of its durability and commands more respect as a limited edition pen. Its not too heavy for lengthy writing and I personally enjoy the extra weight that helps me relaxes my grip. Like most pen, I don’t post the cap when writing, and I find the length more than sufficient to write well, furthermore, I don’t think any extra weight will help with the balance.

This writes almost like my WE Twain, glass smooth, minimal feedback and the typical MB bolder than usual medium stoke lines. I enjoy medium nib as it is suitable for most purpose with its almost ball nib that lays a consistent quality of line, and writes well on almost all sort of surface of paper. Those who like to have some tooth may not enjoy this as it is meant to be a smooth writer. The nib design has the Buddenbrooks House façade engraved on it as a tribute to the writer, and can go into the ranks of other impressive nibs such as Verne and Shaw.

Another trusty piston fill pen, works tremendously well and the only complain I have as mentioned above is the lack of smoothness I’d expected as with my other WE. The lacquer finish is smooth and can be easily cleaned with a damp cloth. Cleaning the nib block seems easy and straightforward.

VALUE 7/10
My wife bought this at retail price earlier this year, before the price hike. She was lucky to acquire one of the few remaining stock. Looking at the current trend on eBay, a roller ball pen is already reaching the price of the this FP’s retail price tag back then. Given the increasing scarcity of this this item on the market, I reckon having it at yesterday’s retail price is still a good buy.

OVERALL 8.33/10
I think the highlight of this pen is in the design. All functional aspects such as mechanism and nib performance are already excellent, which are its basic expectations anyway. We have seen many other limited edition released by Montblanc to give that extra special factor in a writing instrument. What they did with Thomas Mann, and what I really liked about it, is the very fundamental idea of a simple execution that has all the sophistication of respectable well-thought of piece of writing instrument. The design, choice of material and execution is simple yet elegant, did not try too hard to impress, yet just enough to make one stop and appreciate the added value being put into it. One would not hesitate to pick it up and use it immediately and there are no worries or being extra careful on an otherwise over-ornamented/treated design of a pen that may distract thoughts and ideas to be put on paper. Will it become my long term favorite companion, only time will tell. Right now, I’m already anxious to finish off this review and get back into my journals.


  1. Just read your in depth review of Thomas Mann WE. I bought mine nearly a year ago and as a collector and user of pens, I agree with almost all your findings. Although I did not have your experience with the refill being rough. Maybe it just never occurred to me. In any case, I have quite a few other WE LEs and I felt that the 2011 edition was a quantum leap in terms of finishing quality. e.g. when one caps the pen, there is a little but discernable dampening in the locking of the screw not found in other models. Then there is the perfect alignment of the vertical bars of the cap and the barrel regardless how it is capped. I totally agree with your conclusion on design and construction. I wish MB would make more pens like this. I would recommend this pen to anyone wholeheartedly.

  2. Thanks Harry and glad to know you're enjoying the pen too. At this point, this is my most frequently used Writers Edition.