I’m guilty. I jumped on the bandwagon of fountain pen fashion. I bought a Platinum Curidas in green with a medium nib. To be honest, when the original pictures came out my interest was piqued, after all I have to others, with which I will lightly compare it, the Lamy Dialog 3 and the Pilot Capless (nee Vanishing Point).
I’m not going to review the pen here, that will come further down the line, but more this is just a chance to show and compare the three readily available retractable fountain pens on the market today. Sure Montblanc has the fake safety pen, the Heritage 1912. I do like these, it’s one of the few MB pens with a nib that works to my preferences, however they are not only rather expensive, they also have been dropped from the Montblanc range, so I dodged that one. Also the Visconti Pininfarina was just a limited edition and long gone from the shelves. Finally the Hermes Nautilus may not have been just a fancy bodied Pilot VP, having a different opening/closing mechanism, but rumours are it was dropped after just a few years for being overly expensive to make and unreliable when tested (though this did mean those sold were of a high standard), so I can get away with just these three unless I borrow a 1912 ….
First up, build quality. By this I mean feel in the hand, not QC. To be honest you get what you pay for and none of these feel cheap. Sure the Lamy gives the impression it was forged in the foundry of the gods, but believe me if you drop it the pen will dent – as happened to me when mine was but a few weeks old. Fortunately Lamy’s legendary customer service (in the UK and Europe anyhow) meant they replaced the bruised barrel at no cost, even though I admitted it was totally my fault. Some people say they think the Curidas feels cheap. I’d argue it does not. If I were to be brutally honest, it feels tougher than a regular 3776 Century. Just comparing now I’d actually say the acrylic is the same, as is the material thickness, it’s just there is slightly more substantiality to the Curidas.
Size wise, when the nib is sealed away, the Curidas is one big pen. It has girth, the same as the Dialog 3, but it is also long due to the length of the clicker. If you keep pens in a case or sleeve then this one could possibly be an issue. Once the nibs are out this all changes and the Curidas becomes the shortest, with the Lamy being the longest. A certain amount of this is due to the nib since both the Platinum and Pilot have smaller nibs specific to these pens where as the Lamy uses the standard Z55 14k gold unit.
This leads on to nibs. The Lamy only comes with the Z55 14k gold unit, though this could be swapped out for a steel nib if you really wanted to. Not sure why someone would do this as I’m not alone in considering the Lamy gold nibs to be some of the sweetest around. The Pilot is only available outside of Japan with a cool jazz smooth 14k gold nib, however there is a domestic version with an ‘alloy’ steel nib. The Platinum is presently only available with a steel nib. There are rumours of possible future alternative options, but this is a brand new model and nothing officially has been said so we should ignore those. Writing wise all three work very well, you’ll not be disappointed with any of them (putting aside feel in the hand).
When looking at how the opening/closing mechanisms work with the Lamy and Pilot it is almost as if you were stereotyping the engineering of each country, so the Dialog 3 has a very well engineered, complex mechanism which winds open the cap as you start rotating the body, while advancing the nib section forwards. Closing and the mechanism winds in reverse. It’s almost clockwork (I have no clue if there are any small gears in there). The Capless, on the other hand, is simplicity itself. The inner cap is held closed by a spring. Press the clicker in and the nib literally pushes the cap down as it slides out – and I do mean literally. Anyone with one who does not believe me, look closely while opening and closing it. Needless to say, with most things German and Japanese, these will work time and time again over the years.
The Curidas has quite a clever mechanism, simple in implementation but mildly complex in nature. As the clicker pushes the nib unit forwards it pushes the inner cap as well, this pushes the trap door (which is a separate sprung component) down in to the knock/roll stop, then locks that in place before the nib is pushed out. Push the clicker again, the inner cap moves back with the nib unit and the trap door is released and springs back in to position. You can watch this working from the side due to all the present Curidas models being demonstrators.
The clips are different as well and will work better for some than others. All sit between the two upper fingers if a classic tripod or four finger hold is used, however if you rest a finger along the top then all three may be uncomfortable in the hand, with the Lamy being the least intrusive, due to the way the Lamy works. With this pen, when the nib section is wound out, the clip is also pulled in to be flush with the barrel. It’s not quite perfect, but means there is less to get in the way of your fingers. The clip on the Pilot is fixed in position and also further forwards. If the position of the clip were to be a potential issue for you then this is by far the worst of the three. I’m not sure if it was by direct design or by accident, but the front (nib end) of the clip on the Platinum is wide and flat, allowing a finger to comfortably rest on it. Additionally it is a good centimetre plus further back along the barrel than the other pens. It has an additional trick as well as you can remove the clip. Some people have struggled to do this, personally I just followed the instructions which came with the pen and removed it with no problems in around 5-10 seconds. Putting it back on was trickier, though I think because at first I was not using the supplied tool. Only catch with removing it is there is a short securing catch on the body where the top of the clip formerly sat and this will be more noticeable in the hand. I know from others, one option if you never want to use the clip is to carefully sand this down, as Rupert Arzeian has documented in his bog. As a clip, they all work well.
How the pens feel in the hand will always be down to personal preferences. The Platinum and Lamy are surprisingly similar, both being straight cylinders with rounded ends. Interestingly both are of the same approximate width, as are the curves at either end. The Pilot has a more traditional shape. The pen is slightly narrower than many others, but then also gradually tapers in over quite a length towards the and. As a result I find it the least comfortable to hold as it causes my fingers to ache over a short time. The Lamy on the other hand at first feels odd as there is no section, you’re just holding a tube. Once you get used to that it is fine, however the pen is also quite heavy and so long writing can be an issue. Now I don’t know if it is due to my being used to the Dialog 3, but the Curidas felt very natural to hold. It just felt right. I should note it is not the lightest of pens as the housing and mechanism are metal and do add weight. Fortunately this sits above the fingers towards the front, meaning the pen is remarkable well balanced.
The Curidas has undergone a rocky start. Ignoring the question over cost, there have been problems with early pens. I know of one, maybe two owners who found the nib end part of the pen being pushed off when pressing the clicker, almost as if the attachment mechanism had failed. Now there are lots of photos of cracked feeds, and people I know and trust have been suffering from this problem – I’m hoping this is just a batch issue as the only real pressure on the feed appears to be where there the nib is pinched in to hold it in place. Neither of the other two pens were immune from problems though. The Lamy had ink evaporation issues due to the issues with mechanism resulting in the door not properly closing. So bad was the problem they actually took the pen off the market for several years before releasing a reworked version with the problems solved. To give them credit they did replace all the original pens (and still do even though outside of warranty period) with new ones when the owners sent them in. The Pilot also had it’s issues with nib sealing, except it appeared to take them decades to finally fix the problem (my first one is from before my second after). Hopefully the Platinum pen is just suffering from new pen/mechanism blues and is now sorted (as mine will have been from a second or later production run).
Cost is an interesting question and one which is hard to compare. The launch price in the UK of £85 was seen as expensive considering it has a steel nib. The fact that a Pilot Capless will cost you £225 (I’ve found it discounted to £179) seems to be ignored. Now I know that some people will say “oh but I can buy a VP direct from Japan for a lot less money”, well yes you can but that’s not through a local shop nor is it a fair comparison. Sure I was able to find one going for just under £100 (13178 yen) and the cheapest steel nibbed version for £67 (8800 yen), but at the same time on the same site I could find the Curidas going for just £54 (7700 yen), so still ~20% less than it’s like for like Pilot rival. The present price of the Lamy surprised me as it’s ‘just’ ~£240-270 depending on finish and shop. I don’t think this has actually come down in price, more the cost of the Pilot has gradually increased over recent years. As to my personal thoughts. I do/did feel the Curidas was a bit on the expensive side, however in the UK you can now find it at multiple stores for £75 and I was able to take advantage of the Cult Pens 15% off 15th Birthday Offer to help further reduce the cost (making mine £63.75).
So there are my comparisons, complete with some personal feelings and bias. It’s odd that my least favourite to write with is the one being carried around. Yes the Pilot is currently attached to my Midori Traveller Passport, which I carry every where, by the standard pen loop. Originally it was the Lamy using the clip loop, however I noted this was putting side pressure on the clip, pushing it to the right, plus the vibrations and bouncing around of being carried meant the inner nib unit would gradually unscrew. I’ve already contemplated using the Curidas instead, however it is longer than the journal (where as the other two are about the same size), plus it is just a bit too wide for the pen loop (and the clip loop was also getting too soft and I don’t seem to be able to replace it).