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Visconti Skeleton LE

Visconti Skeleton pen, titanium overlay on transparent acrylic, c 2002

Hi, my name is Rick ("Hi, Rick") and I confess that I bought a Limited Edition pen. After all the grumping that I've done about LEs, this may seem like hypocrisy, but in my defense I can offer that I have in fact removed this pen from its cellophane baggie and have used the crap out of it for going on three years now.

The Skeleton was part of an early-millennium vogue for overlay pens, a trend that also included a much rarer and more expensive Montblanc pen. The Skeleton's overlay is executed in titanium, a very hard metal with a matt silver-beige finish. This particular example is fitted with a large two-tone 18k point with broad oblique nibs.

Titanium is an invaluable material for many industrial applications. Despite any number of attempts to promote it as a luxury-goods material, however, it steadfastly refuses to fill the bill. While it is certainly an exotic metal, it is not as drool-inspiring as gold or silver (or even lesser siblings rhodium or palladium). It is exceptionally hard, and difficult to machine, and does not take a finish well; furthermore, it will dull over time. The best bet is to put some sort of clear coat over the material to preserve the muted (and not unattractive) color, but this coating will of course wear away under use. Already my Skeleton shows some signs of mild dulling of its finish, but I tend to regard these as character marks rather than blemishes (the same is true of my titanium-covered Apple PowerBook computer).

The Skeleton uses an Onoto-style plunger fill.

A big selling point for me was this pen's use of an plunger-filll design (which Visconti calls a "vacuum power filler"). It's similar to the systems found on old Onoto and Sheaffer pens during the first half of the 20th century, but is updated with modern materials. The system is found on other Visconti pens, but is particularly suited to the Skeleton; thanks to the translucency of the barrel, it's actually fun to fill this pen. Unscrew and withdraw the piston, put the point in the ink, and slam the piston home; when you reach bottom, you can watch your favorite writing fluid literally leap into the pen. With a good stroke, I can manage to get the ample reservoir a bit more than half full, which provides enough ink for many days of writing.

The Verdict

This pen cost an awful lot of money, but I was fortunate to get an irresistable discount from a friend in the business. It's almost made that money back for me in terms of entertainment value (it's fun to see the reactions of airport security personnel trying to figure out just what causes that weird signature on the X-ray machine). It is also a very fine writer, and surprisingly easy to clean and care for. Visconti makes several other pens with the "vacuum power filler," and it would be great to see other makers return to this very efficient filling system.

Although the Skeleton LE has been "retired," as they say, Visconti makes a less expensive regular line version that uses cartridge converter filling and a less expensive material for the overlay.

Maker Visconti
Origin Italy
Production c2002
Type Plunger fill
Point 18k gold, two-tone finish with scrolled design
Construction Transparent acrylic barrel and cap with laser-etched cut out titanium overlay..