Lamy is a quite special brand in the penworld. German based, dedicated to the economic ideals of Bauhaus – simplicity, function, quality – and doesn’t aim to the blingy high brow market – but nevertheless focus on original design and function. Maybe one could say that it is the only (bigger) pen company that really has embraced the ideals of modernity in function and design. None of their pens are replicas of “traditional” (fountain) pens. They have a sphere of their own. In some ways Lamy is similar to the avantgarde part of Pilot – but Lamy is modern avantgarde through and through. Their “upmarket” pieces are more directed to the artsy upper middle class than the traditional “luxury goods” buyers and they have few factors in common with the (often) blingy and very expensive “Limited Editions” that almost all brands feature today. I find that both sympathetic and interesting.
The first Lamy Safari saw the light 1980 and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. As far as I know Lamy doesn’t acknowledge this anniversary in any special way. They have released another special edition – the white Safari – this year, so far, but that is nothing out of the ordinary. It has a design of its own as most Lamy pens; designed to function and last. The user and function is in focus. My first Lamy was a rollerball that I bought when I was in my late teens. I still have it – it is the charcoal Safari that looks like a licorice candy. Still going strong and non-destructed after years of use. I don’t use it much now and actually didn’t remember it until I was about to publish the post and I took two snaps to show it too.
The design is controversial (look at FPN to find various opinions of it – as this thread here). Some think it is childish, others that it is clumsy, some don’t like the ergonomic grip that decides where to put your fingers. Many detest the clip. And yet – which its selling statistics ought to prove – many, many likes it. I’d say that independent of whether one likes the design or not, one can’t seriously contest that it is an original design. And from that perspective – and compared with many pens in the same price segment – it is a good buy. A piece of the design history for a relatively small amount of money.
Design wise I like that it is original and no-fuss. I’ve been ambivalent to the clip, but I think the steel/chrome clip is quite nice. And it functions so very well – as a clip. The Safari is big, but lightweight and I find it well balanced both posted and not. The plastic is sturdy can take a tremendous amount of wear and tear. The snap mechanism on my rollerball that has been in use for over 15 years still works flawless and fastens the cap securely. The clip – even though black – shows very little wear – despite that its owner hasn’t treated it gently. It isn’t fancy, but it hasn’t any aspirations to be that either. It is a clever, functional pen with a look of its own. And even if it in the pen world isn’t considered fancy I have gotten appreciating comments about it when meeting professional accountants with fancy clothes – writing with bics.
One feature that I appreciate very much is the possibility to easily swap nibs. As you can see I swapped nibs on the pink Safari during the photo session to get an extra writing sample. It took less than a minute to replace the 1.1 mm italic with the EF. Spare nibs are – especially compared to other brands – very cheap. The Writing Desk in UK charges £4~$6.5) for a spare nib which makes it easy and convenient to try different nib sizes and get more than one pen. Their nibs/feeds are well made and I have yet to encounter a bad Safari/Vista/Al-Star nib. They start when asked to and doesn’t fuss with flow. The 1.9 mm Safari fusses a little if I write/try to highlight very fast, but that is more due to my speediness than the pen.
The nibs are on the stiff side and ought to be judged from the standard of its own price range. For the small price tag the Safari has a quality nib which is made to be used. Not much of personality, but no fuss either. It does what it shall without faults even if it doesn’t sparkle, but I honestly don’t expect sparkles and fireworks from a pen in this price range. I like it in its own right. It is definitely a pen worth having – a good worker that doesn’t complain if handled non-gently and it simply works and works and works. It also comes in a variety of colours and everyone ought to find at least one capable of brightening one’s mood. The design is far from boring knock-offs. It is a great companion in the urban jungle. Happy Birthday Safari!