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OMAS 360

The Oversize OMAS 360 is a BIG pen, as shown against the 1-inch grid paper in the background.

The OMAS 360 isn't the most expensive pen in OMAS' regular line, but it is certainly the most distinctive and radical-looking. While most Italian penmakers these days (including OMAS, to a large extent) have settled into a comfortable routine of ornate "throwback" designs, here's one pen that you definitely don't see every day.

Although the warm, lightweight cotton-derived "vegetal" resin is there, as are the trademark greek-key bands and piston-filler system, the 360 is otherwise very different from other OMAS offerings. For one thing, it is very large (a full 7-1/2 inches/190 mm with cap posted, a full inch longer than the Montblanc 149 in similar configuration). For another, it has a triangular (or, more precisely, tri-lobal) cross-section, which is (in the words of OMAS) "totally ergonomic" (yah, dude). The idea appears to be to force (well, maybe, "encourage") the user to hold it in such a position that the point sits at the correct writing angle.

The 360's triangular cross section provides for a comfortable grip
(or, it does for some of us, at any rate).

Other distinctive touches include the flat spring clip (which, on the ballpoint and rollerball models, have different raised symbols to allow you to tell them apart by feel). and the pin through the filler knob, which conveniently lines up with the top of the pen to keep you from overtightening.

The 18k (750 ppt) rosy gold point gets the obligatory expensive-pen two-tone treatment with a rhodium mask. This point is marked as an "EF" (extra-fine) but writes about like a medium Sheaffer or Parker from the midcentury years, providing further support for the conjecture that modern fountain pen nibs run broader than their older counterparts. The point and its big hard-rubber feed are press-fitted into the big barrel, so removal can be a bit of a problem (nor can the section be screwed out, as it can with other OMAS pens like the Paragon or the Ogiva). As with other OMAS pen points, this one is claimed to be unusually flexible, but I don't find this to be the case (but, then, I'm used to old Watermans and Pelikans).

OMAS was obviously very excited about the development of this pen; the booklet included with my first 360 provided screen shots from 3-D CAD programs (as much as to say, "we used a computer, therefore it must be high tech").

OMAS 360 midsize in yellow (c 2000)

Although the Oversize pen is very long and fat, the lightweight resin makes it very easy to hold onto for many pages of writing. As far as I can tell, OMAS delivers on the claim for "total" ergonomic-ness...ergonomity...ergonomicism...whatever.

Perusal of the latest dealer catalogs shows considerable diversification in the 360 lineup in the past few years. Although the Oversize model seems no longer to be on offer (likewise the solid yellow), you can get the standard-size 360 in a number of different colors of vegetal resin; in addition, OMAS now offers the transparent "Vision" model as well as an expensive range of 360s in colorful celluloid (including new cracked-ice "Wild" and laminated "Burkina" variations), and even ones made from titanium and rare woods. There's also the new 360 Mezzo, which is much smaller, comes in several "primary" colors, and uses OMAS' hot-cha cartridge loading system rather than the piston filler. Some of the 360s have so-called "High Tech" trim (rhodium plating over gold); in fact, it seems now that very few retain the older gold-fill trim.

The Verdict

If, as the spammers tell me, "size does matter," then the OMAS 360 Oversize is definitely the pen to carry. Despite its length and girth, it is far lighter than any pen of its size (and many much smaller pens besides), so it is a comfortable writer if you can get past the tri-lobal grip. Don't post the cap if you find the length to be an annoyance.

I would encourage you to give the 360 a good test-drive before buying; it's the sort of pen that one either loves to hold or else can't stand (I must fall into the forme category, since I now own four 360s). If you have a finicky hand, you might benefit from a small tweak of the set to the point in order to bring it to the proper angle for your writing; this is something best done by a dealer or a technician, since the point and feed are press-fitted into the pen and not easily removed.

The piston filler makes this pen rather tedious to clean out, and I have experienced nasty clogs with these pens. On the other hand, putting the pen point-down in a glass of cool tap water for a good soak, followed by refilling with fresh ink, can usually bring it around. The moral of this story is to avoid heavily-saturated inks and to clean the pen thoroughly before you store it.

The OMAS Vegetal resin (used in the basic 360s) is very soft and scratches quite easily, so don't toss this pen in the junk drawer or carry it in your back pocket.

Maker OMAS
Origin Italy
Production 1990c - present
Type Piston filler
Point 18k with rhodium mask.
Construction Vegetal resin cap and barrel, solid color, triangular cross-section, gold-fill clip and trim.