montblanc meisterstück no 146 – a non neglectable icon

IMPORTANT ADD TO THE ORIGINAL POST: This Montblanc 146 has also developed problems with a leaking piston (ink behind the piston and thus leaking from the knob). I feel very annoyed about this and find it strange that the two out of two MB 146s I’ve had have developed leaking pistons. I have a long experience of using piston fillers and have never experienced this before I encountered these. Not good, to say the least. It is now on its way to the pen doctor to be cured.

This Montblanc 146 was made in the 1980s. It has a single tone, 14 k, gold nib that originally was an extra fine nib, but I had it customized into a cursive italic by the FPN member Oxonian, who I really recommend. The ink window is light grey-blue instead of the big, clear square shaped (or striped – depending how one sees it) ink windows of the contemporary 146.  I actually  didn’t intend to write a review of the Montblanc 146. My idea was to take a few photos of it and then sell it. I’ve bought too many pens lately and am having a hard time choosing which pens that have to go and I thought that a MB 146 is more easy to replace than the other candidates. What was intended as a short photo session taking a few photos instead made me realize that I probably can’t let go of this pen and I also started to browse through the bunch of photos I’ve taken of it  during the time I’ve had it – of which some are posted here – an eclectic mix from different sessions. It is generic and less “original” than many of my other pens. Black/gold and very traditional design is not my usual preference, but there is something about it that makes it very hard to let it go. I’ve thus postponed the decision.

Design

Some people would disagree when I call this – and the whole Meisterstück series –  iconic and instead claim that it is the Montblanc 149 – the corpulent cigar – that is the icon. For me all of the more or less fat, cigar shaped fountain pens – 144, 145, 146, 147 (despite its cartridge filling system) and 149 –  in the traditional black/gold Meisterstück series are  icons . This series is by many people – far beyond the fountain pen community – seen as the ultimate, first class, fountain pen. There is no other pen model with as many knock offs and copies, and there are only a few pen makers that don’t have their own cigar shaped, high brow pen – more or less obviously inspired by the Meisterstück.  Especially among non-German pen makers, it almost seems mandatory to have at least one pen in the higher price ranges that is modelled upon the Meisterstück – just look at Sailor, Pilot and Platignum.

Since the design has become an icon I find it hard to keep a distance to it and rate it. I don’t think I have or have had nearly as mixed feelings towards any other pen model as I have towards the classic Meisterstück. It is to some degree personal. The Meisterstück was the first “real” fountain pen that I bought (a 144 when I still lived at my parents in my late teens) . I had wanted it for so long and used some of the money that I had earned by working weekends and parts of the summer vacation. I didn’t dare to tell my mother how much I spent on it. I actually bought a used computer at the same time as well and in the long run the Meisterstück kept its value a lot better than the computer – since long sent to the graveyard of electronics. When I sold the 144 I almost got as much as I initially paid for it (if one doesn’t count the devaluation).  A great part of why I choose a  Meisterstück was that it was the classy fountain pen incarnated - the pen. I guess this teenage love for it contributes to my love/hate relationship to the Meisterstück. A part of me see it as an immature, shallow love for an icon – for the pen and all the (PR created) mystique that surrounds it. Another part of me has a sweet spot for this über classic pen – the original – and think that if one shall have one cigarshaped pen in black and gold it must be the real thing – the original. So, there I am – attracted and repelled by the very same features.

The iconic thing makes it feel generic and replacable. Icon status in exchange for originality and uniqueness. On the other hand it is precisely the iconic thing – that this is the original – that contributes to its attractiveness. All other pens based on it – even first class pens – are merely knock offs  (even if they can be very expensive and well made). The Meisterstück in its modern version – this cigar shaped model created in the 50s – must be one of the most successful and long lived brandings one can find.  Based on the success, the iconic status and timelessness it would be unfair to give less than maximum points design wise.

On the other hand – it is the original, but lacks originality. Montblanc succeeded in creating a timeless model of the fountain pen. A representative.  On these grounds I’d say that it is impossible to give the classic black/gold Meisterstück in its different sizes one single verdict. It is a not only a pen – it is a phenomenon. What I do like about this design is that it is elegant without exaggerated bling, that it is exclusive and understated in a way none of the special versions or LEs or WEs are. Still something of a writing instrument that is made to be used. Sometimes I find it too elegant – a bit stiff and dusty – but it is a timeless design where all elements – barrel, cap and nib – are very well balanced and in harmony with each other. Out of the three standard sizes 144/145 and 146 and 149 I prefer the 146. Its lenght is almost the same as the 149, but it is more slender without being meagre – I find the 144 and 145 a tad to meagre – and it is still thicker than a Pelikan M800.

The few ornaments that it carries is very well made – the fat cap band with the Meisterstück inscription is meticulously well made with an air of craftsmanship. That is one of the details that I like in particular. Another thing I prefer with this pen compared with the contemporary version is that the nib is more simple – monotone and not so much bling on it. But, the most beautiful nib version is the one from the 50′s with a similar design as this, but in duotone. Simple and yet refined. And – lastly – I am a little fond of the snow flake on the cap.

Function & Writing Experience

Despite being a design icon – this is a pen and should thus be of superior quality with regard to its reputation and price. It is – doubtlessly - a well built pen. But it is not extraordinary. It is very comfortable to write with – the gripping section is designed for writing and it doesn’t have any step bewteen barrel and gripping section, which makes it suitable to many. It posts very well and secure, which I find very important since I prefer posting my pens. The cap unscrews a little bit to easily, though, and should not be carried clipped to a pocket. In all it is one of the most comfortable writers I’ve used.

Filling system

The Montblanc 146 sports – of course – a traditional  piston filler. The piston moves easily and it is – as all well functioning pistons – easy to fill and flush. One drawback with it is that, out of the two 146  I’ve had, one developed a leak from the piston knob (a rather new pen) and I had to send it for repair. I’ve read in the MB forum at FPN that there are others who have had this problem with both the MB 146 and the MB 149, so it might be a construction weakness. I’ve owned and used several piston fillers and actually never had any problems with a leaking piston knob before – this is the first one. As with the cap that easily unscrews – this is something that shouldn’t be common among pens with this reputation and at this price level. This one functions as it should, though, and when it functions it has a great ink capacity and is easy and nice to use.

Nib

As stated above: I definitely prefer this monotone nib to the contemporary more blingy and clumsy duotone. The contemporary nib in one of the photos is a MB 146 with a M size nib that I had for a while before I bought this. But, the most beautiful of the MB 146 nibs are, in my (not so humble opinion) the ones from the fifties- a sleek, elegantly shaped two tone nib. You can view a photo of it here and I can warmly recommend www.fountainpen.de for Montblanc references and photos.

Anyhow – aesthetics aside – the nib I have on my 146 is customized by the FPN member Oxonian. It originally was an extra fine nib – that put down a rather thick line so I had it customized into a lovely narrow italic (see writing samples) with a width of about 0.4 mm. My experience with original, untampered,  Montblanc nibs are that they are generally very pleasant to write with and that the broader nib widths often show some line variation. I shouldn’t call this nib flexible, but it has a little hint of spring that adds character to the writing. One thing that all the MBs I’ve tried have in common is that they seem to run wide. In all very good and well made nibs. It is a pity that MB doesn’t offer a broader range of nib sizes, though. I’d love factory made stubs and italics.

In all

As stated in the title – the Meisterstück 146 is a model that is almost impossible to neglect. Even if you don’t like it you have an opinion of it. I think my ambivalence is a rather good illustration of this position. The negative pole partly stems from its über classic design and partly from the transformation MB has went through the last decades – from being a pen manufacturer with quality pens in different price ranges, like Pelikan,  to a luxury brandputting its label on a lot of different products – where pens are sold more as accessoires and status symbols than pens.  They still have something special, though, but I am not convinced that a new MB is worth the premium price, but a used one in good condition can often be had for a lot less.  But I am more and more feeling that vintage Montblancs are more interesting than the contemporary Montblancs.  If I would have a little trunk of money to spend on a MB I’d spend it on a 139 in good condition and use it every day…

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24 Responses to montblanc meisterstück no 146 – a non neglectable icon

  1. MB user says:

    So, whatever happened to your 146? Was it properly repaired? Did you keep it? If so, are you still using it?

  2. David says:

    Is it too late to reply to this post? Certainly not. it’s out there. I have a love-hate relationship with my Meisterstuck No. 146. I love that its color is Burgandy. I hate that it writes wet and that the flat threads between barrel and top allow the top to come unscrewed, as you indicated above. This pen reminds me of partial lyric from “My Funny Valentine” – Your looks are laughable, un-photographable,
    Yet, you’re my favorite work of art.”

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  6. rod sharp says:

    I’ve had two montblanc pens and both of them have developed leaks in the piston system. I’ve now replaced the lastest one with an antique Parker 45. Superb pen, over 50 years old, it works perfectly AND doesn’t leak.

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  8. raffaele bonuomo says:

    Many compliments…
    a very complete rewiew with beautiful photos….
    i have a two vintage 146 like yours, with monotone nib and the model’s number (n° 146) on the golden ring…
    and i’d like to sell one to someone who could appreciate it because i have several pens and i can’t use all …do you know someone interested?

    greetings

    • Martin says:

      I have a 21 year old daughter who has a passion and gift for writing. I purchased a cheaper German cartridge pen for writing her essays and papers in university while I was on business in Germany. She will only use this pen now as she is an old soul and I believe it has become her muse, even forgoing her beloved laptop. I am shopping for a fountain pen with character and history for her as she falls in love with history and a story. I know this is an old post but I am still hoping. I can find one on ebay, but I know she would love the connection.

      • Chris says:

        You cannot do better than a MB pen – they do require maintenance – hence the leaks people mention – but they are sublime. The other brand to consider is Waterman – you need to try each pen but I have a gold Waterman as well as the MB and it is different but matches it in every way. For a woman (and even myself with small hands) I would go for the slim line woman’s size rather than the full 146 – it’s too fat to hold properly.

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  10. I just inherited an MB 146 from my mom, who bought hers in the 1980′s ; she gave it to me as she can no longer write in script form, and it is a gorgeous pen. I have soaked it and cleaned it carefully and am absolutely taken by how well it performs and writes, even still. She’s used it a lot and it still is in excellent nick and writes like a dream. I love the satin feel of the nib across the page; I feel as though I am writing with silk satin, on silk satin. Amazing. I love it. And it is so comfortable, it practically writes itself. Vive la design!

  11. Jon Doh says:

    Great review. Thank you for covering the warts as well. This is one of the best looking fountain pens out there. It has a great heft that feels good in the hand. Its nib is one of the most gorgeous ones you’ll find anywhere. But, it seems the Montblancs are curse with terrible leakage problems. I truly loved the one I had, but mine had a very scratchy nib and leaked like crazy. After a couple of failed repair attempts I took it back to the dealer for a refund and purchased a Pelikan 800. The Pelikan has never leaked and its nib writes like butter sliding across a hot teflon pan. But, it doesn’t feel nearly as substantial as the Montblanc and its nib, although nice, just just isn’t as beautiful to look at as the 146′s. One day I have the feeling I’m going to give the 146 another try.

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  13. Bonner '62 says:

    Got this for a gift from a Persian Gulf client after a successful contract. I never thought any pen would make a difference but you do feel good when you whip this baby out to sign something. I readily lend it to people when they fumble for their pens. I’m sure 98% don’t even take note but the remaining 2% probably think where did this guy ever get this pen? I know it’s shallow but I like it.

  14. Deborah Judge says:

    Thank you for this interesting review. I was searching the net to find out what to do about my leaking MB 146, which I have owned since 1988. I have always loved the pen, always put up with the leak and would never part with it!

  15. Julie says:

    Your photography is so exquisite! I do not have an MB but am not opposed to one. The 146 has always intrigued me has have some of the smaller vintage models. The 146 seems about “right size.”

  16. Bruce Bailey says:

    I was just at the MB Boutique to look for a 146 today. To my delight, the salesman told me to wait until tomorrow because they have a sale starting tomorrow. The pen I was going to buy will be half price tomorrow and he is going to “hide it” for me until then!

    I had a lovely 146 years ago and for an unknown reason to me, I sold the thing even though I loved that nib so much. I regret selling it, but thankfully the nib I tested today is just like the one sold years ago.

    I dare say, this 146 will be my standard go to pen on a regular basis.

    Thanks for your blog posting on the 146.

  17. dandelion says:

    Thank you all for the positive input – very happy to hear that you appreciate the pen & photos. :) I’ve done some editorial adjustments, btw.

  18. inkophile says:

    Great review! You’ve certainly increased my interest in the MB 146 from that era when I thought only a late 1950s to early 1960s model would do. Perhaps I should cast my net wider…

  19. TAO says:

    You covered every aspect of this pen admirably. I certainly like vintage MBs (and still look for a late 50s model 14 or 24 often) but have been ambivalent about the ones from the 80s on. In that era the 146 is certainly my favorite. it’s the right size, weight, and filling system for my tastes.

    This was an excellent review with wonderful pictures.

  20. Speedmaster says:

    Absolutely beautiful!!!

  21. pmorin says:

    Having just recently acquired a 149, this was a great blog post to read. Part of the reason I purchased it was that it is “ICONIC”. Part of the reason is the 149 feels really comfortable in my hand for writing. Mostly the price was excellent.

    I agree with your view that the Meisterstück line is ‘iconic’ as opposed to just the 149. Iconic, but almost cliche as well. Or perhaps stereotyped if you prefer. I think that is part of the appeal. It has great design and styling to it. For that alone it deserves a place in the line-up.

    It has been interesting trying to date it – thankfully several people have contributed posts on FPN dealing with this that have been pinned. I believe it is a late 60′s to early 70′s (72-74 would be my guess) – so it has a beautiful huge broad shoulder 2 tone nib with some flex and although slightly wide is fast becoming one of my favourite writers.

    I have used a newer 146, and it is nice to write with, but I find the newer nib much stiffer and not as pleasant to write with – much less responsive. I am very happy to have been able to pick up an older model. Although subjective, may opinions I’ve read prefer older models (pre 90′s).

    It is easy to see why this pen has earned it’s place. I never thought I would own one, and now in a few short days I can’t imagine not having it.

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