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Montblanc Noblesse

Montblanc Noblesse, stainless steel w/ steel point, c 1978

This pen was one of my "start-of-semester" presents to myself from my undergraduate days, and has been in my collection for over 25 years (geez, has it been that long?). It dates from around the end of Montblanc's period as a full-line penmaker, and reflects the then-fashionable European trends toward slim pens and neo-Bauhaus minimalism (visit the Lamy page to see how this tradition continues).

Even now, this kind of slim, understated, all-metal pen seems very uncharacteristic for Montblanc, but it was particularly so as the 1970s opened. Montblanc's continental neighbors at Aurora, however, had scored a hit with a pen called the Hastil, designed by architect Marco Zanuso (this classic pen was recently reissued by Aurora in a limited edition). Montblanc had Aurora make up a few examples to their own specs and sold them under the Montblanc name. These proved sufficiently successful for Montblanc to design its own exemplar; the Noblesse first went on sale in 1973, and was offered in several finishes with either gold or steel wing points.

Later in the 1970s, Montblanc came under control of Dunhill, the British "Gentlemen's Accessories" manufacturer. Soon thereafter, they abandoned their less expensive models like the trendy Carrera (a plastic student pen named for the contemporary Porsche sports car) to focus on upmarket pens (and later jewelry, leather goods, and watches). The Noblesse survived this transition, but was "prettied up" with a more traditional-looking scrolled point, new enamel colors, and a general revision of trim that (in my opinion, at any rate) did not improve the design of this pen. It was also renamed the Noblesse Oblige, conjuring visions of Marie Antoinette bestowing cake on the masses, not at all the image I associate with this very down-to-earth pen.

The Noblesse is a very slender pen, but made from very heavy gauge metal for a solid, substantial feel. The monochromatic brushed steel finish harmonizes with the plain high-polish nickel-plate clip and point. Even the section is metal (of a slightly contrasting matté texture), which gives the pen an expensive look while not breaking from the overall design. The Noblesse uses international cartridges (or the large Montblanc piston converter). It has a very rigid and fine steel point in the familiar Montblanc "wing" shape. Decoration and brand markings are held to a relative minimum (although not as minimal a minimum as on the Lamy 2000), with an imprint etched into the cap lip, the letters "MB" discretely etched onto the point, and the usual Montblanc white stars at either end (yes, you get two — count 'em — two snowflakes on this pen!).

The Verdict

A very atypical Montblanc pen, perfect for those who want a Montblanc but aren't into ostentation and fear fragile plastics. Unfortunately, the Noblesse Oblige line seems to have been dropped with the introduction of the newer Bohème and Star Walker lines (which are deficient to me because neither can be filled from a bottle). So, if you want a Noblesse, you're going to have to haunt the online auctions or visit a pen show.

Maker Montblanc
Origin Germany
Production 1975c - 2002c
Type Fountain pen (cartridge/converter)
Point Steel "wing nib" with fine point and nickel-plate finish
Construction Steel.