Wednesday, October 7, 2020

REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN

REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
For probably the first time in the history of this blog, I'll try to keep it short today (keyword: "try"). Why? Well, the pen we'll take a look at today is really nothing different from the Montblanc 149 I already reviewed a few years ago (HERE)... except for the nib! This is Montblanc's Calligraphy special edition of their iconic flagship fountain pen, which comes with a specially developed flexible nib!

The Calligraphy Meisterstück with flexible nib is a special edition in a new series of "Calligraphy" pens with unique nibs (a new version with different specialty nib will supposedly still launch this year, effectively replacing the flexible nib variant). And I'm a bit late to the game with this review. My particular pen (that I purchased from site sponsor La Couronne Du Comte - Check out their new website, BTW!) took an unfortunate - and long - detour via Hamburg (Montblanc's HQ) because the nib slit was cut off-center. I typically don't complain about that sort of thing as long as it's not too bad or doesn't hamper performance. But on a 900€ pen, I feel like a little nitpicking is permitted. Oh, and it did actually make the nib noticeably scratchier, so I guess having it out of my hands for 6+ months to be replaced (perhaps it took the scenic route?) was the right - and necessary - judgment call to make. But it did, of course, delay this review to the point where this pen is nearing the end of its availability (sorry for that!).
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Anyway, as I said, this is just a plain, stock Meisterstück 149. The box has a custom imprint for the Calligraphy release on the outer sleeve, but inside is just the normal large clamshell box for a regular 149. A bottle of Montblanc's calligraphy ink isn't included, either. Even though Montblanc released two special edition inks along with the Calligraphy pens. A spectacular special edition 146 with gold leaf decoration was also available, which did set itself apart in terms of aesthetics. Combine the words 'gold leaf' and 'Montblanc' in a single sentence though, and the price gets steep... So I settled for the 149, which I imagine has the upper hand for flex writing anyway, since the larger #8-sized (in Montblanc's numbering #9) nib is already soft on its own. 
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Let's get straight to the business end: the flex nibs look fantastic. I think the monotone nib with simple but elegant figure-eight swirl is one of the best Montblanc nib designs I've seen in a while (maybe close second to the Heritage Rouge Et Noir's Snakehead design!). Montblanc typically excels in nib designs though, so I guess it's hardly a surprise that this too is an aesthetically pleasing release. 
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Functionally, I had high expectations for this pen. Montblanc typically goes for reliable performance with their nibs, so I was curious to see how that'd translate into their first venture in a modern flex nib. The answer is: good. Maybe even great. But as you'd expect, not without its limitations.

The nib tipping is ground noticeably finer than their typical nibs. It's supposedly an EF, but with a line as fine as 0.2 -0.3 mm without pressure, I'd say it's more like an EEF in Montblanc's standards. The fact that it's so fine is also why even the slightest off-center slit is an issue, the right tine was extremely thin on my faulty pen. Anyway, on the replacement pen I received, the nib is actually very pleasant to use, even for normal writing. It's surprisingly smooth for such an extremely fine nib, although of course, you should still expect a bit more feedback than with Montblanc's regular nibs. If you have a very light hand, it could serve for normal writing. 
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
With the slightest pressure, the nib immediately starts opening up and you get a slightly wider EF to F line width, with noticeably heavier ink flow. The Calligraphy flex nib is positively soft when you start pushing it more. It takes a small but balanced amount of pressure, enough to give a controlled writing experience, but not too much as to cause fatigue. It's quite a responsive nib with good snapback, meaning that the tines close back up fairly quickly when varying pressure while writing - it doesn't feel mushy.

In terms of line variation, the internet says 0.3 mm EF (EEF) to 1.6 mm (BB), but I find that optimistic. I could consistently go up to 1.0-1.3 mm lines without feeling like I'm pushing the nib too far. In the grand scheme of things, this qualifies the Calligraphy Flex as a 'semi-flex' nib, not quite vintage full-flex. That said, the nib definitely benefits from the extremely narrow tipping. It automatically gives more impressive line variation even though the maximum line width isn't necessarily outlandish.
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
The Calligraphy Flex nib seems to be mated to the standard, plastic 149-style feed. I don't know if it's adjusted to suit this nib's ink demand better, but I don't think so (it's relatively wet but not necessarily gushier than my 149 with BB nib). The plastic feed does a fair job - more than fair, actually - but it's definitely the weak link of this pen. Performance is a bit hit or miss. Sometimes it keeps up great, but often it buckles under rapid and continuous flexing, especially when you push the line variation to the max. It helps to take your time when writing, which holds true for any flex pen, really.
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
I performed my writing "stress test" (see above) with Pelikan Edelstein Onyx, an ink I use for testing all flex nibs for a fair comparison. Onyx is a fairly well-behaved, wet ink, but you can see that at the end of the test it couldn't keep up with the relatively fast pace and heavy flexing. For a worst-case scenario like this, the feed's performance isn't half bad. Yet I can't help but think that an ebonite feed (like the 149 used to have!) could've helped in providing a richer, more consistent ink flow that's more able to keep up with a demanding nib like this.

Overall, the Calligraphy Flex performs very similarly to the Pilot #15 FA nib that I tried on the Custom 743 (review HERE), despite being two very different pens. Both have nibs that are very responsive and capable of providing excellent line variation. The Montblanc Calligraphy nib has maybe a slight edge over the FA nib because the line thickness starts out a bit finer. They are, however, also both limited by the performance of their feeds. 
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Montblanc being Montblanc, The Meisterstück 149 Calligraphy Flex is not a cheap gateway into modern flex pens. You have to be certain that flex nibs are the thing for you - and you specifically want one with a white star on the cap! - before putting 905€ (roughly 875$ without VAT, from La Couronne Du Comte) on the table for one. I think that speaks for itself. 905€ translates into a 100€ premium over the standard 149, a serious chunk of change for just a different nib! 

I do like it though. It's a pretty pen (if you like the classic Montblanc look) with a beautiful nib design IMHO. The extra-fine nib grind and very decent flexibility make for one of the more expressive line variations I've come across in modern flex nibs, and it's a pleasant writer overall. I've yet to find a modern flexible fountain pen without a single compromise, so even with the middling performance of the feed, the Montblanc's 149 Calligraphy Flex manages to rank quite highly in my search for the perfect modern flex!

PS: I failed to keep this post short, didn't I?
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN
Note: I purchased this product at a discount from site sponsor La Couronne Du Comte, so I could write this review. I was in no way influenced in the making of this review, the opinions shared in this review are completely my own! This post does not contain affiliate links.
REVIEW: MONTBLANC MEISTERSTUCK 149 CALLIGRAPHY FLEX NIB FOUNTAIN PEN

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