TWSBI are almost at the same level as Lamy when it comes to special and limited editions, but normally this is just within their existing range, however early March 2019 they leaked images of a new pen on their Instagram feed. A new pen, based on the 580, but with a different shape and size. Under a week later is was available on the TWSBI’s own store (and only there), to be sold out within no time at all. No further batches were released.
Now I have not sought out and bought one. Few appear for resale, though the ones I have seen have not been ‘that’ badly priced, however I have splurged out and rented this one for a week having stumbled upon it’s availability in the UK.
I must admit when it was launched I was tempted and then glad it sold out extremely quickly as that removed temptation. Pictures and comments posted on line left me in two minds as the material looked good, but at heart it was an expensive 580, a decent enough pen, but one I stopped using due to a rather lacking writing experience. Question is would this test make me regret or be glad I was unable to grab one of these pens.
Packaging wise it is typical TWSBI, which is actually quite a good thing as the cases are compact, well made, and come with all you need to help maintain the pen. The sleeve was coloured rather than the normal cardboard brown, however the choice of gold on very dark blue does surprise me a little. Perhaps it was to indicate this was an upmarket product, but I felt that a teal or green colour would have been far more appropriate.
There is no manufacturing number on the case, in fact little to indicate this is a special pen. It could have been any from the existing range. Apparently the production number is on the piston itself, which does surprise me as most people will not be taking this pen apart and neither will I.
The pen is well protected in a foam cut out, along with a piston wrench and small bottle of silicon lubrication oil, which are ubiquitous to most/all TSWBI pens. In this case the wrench is metal, showing the 580 origins (as the Eco has a plastic wrench). As is also typical for TWSBI there are very well presented and clear instructions on how to fill and maintain the pen.
Visually, in the flesh, I must admit I was disappointed. The material is very nice, but it is also light dependant. There is chatoyance to the lighter streaks and the darker parts are translucent. The black fittings and cap finial work well with this. Problem for me is the shape is very generic. Without looking at the TWSBI symbol on the cap finial or name laser etched below the clip this pen could be from anyone of a reasonable number of new ‘old name’ brands or generic Chinese or Indian clones. Having said that, at the time it was for sale, it would still be considered cheap compared to many of those ( I seem to remember it was $100).
Size wise it is comparatively wide when seen next to other TWSBI pens. The same is the case for the grip section, though it is surprisingly narrow compared to the rear of the barrel, never mind the step. It is quite long and tapered out towards the threads, with the acrylic smoothly merging in with the ink window. At the nib end there is a finger rest which is about the same width as where the material stops at the window. There is a slight step up to the threads and another at the barrel. Why I’m not sure as visually it looks slightly out of place, is not required as the cap is not flush fitting, and both can be felt under the fingers and thumb. Actually I suspect this is to keep it in line with the TWSBI classic, with which is shares the ink window though in a thinner form on the latter pen.
Now this is a bit of an issue for me as the threads are thin and hard, and while bevelled, the step is also noticeable. Even with writing for a while I could still feel them and it was not a great experience. I’ve just tried my other TWSBIs and none of those give me the same problem, though note I do not have a Classic (or Go, though that’s a snap cap) to compare with.
The ink window is clear, though does show that the piston can not be fully wound in as it can not be seen. Still this pen does hold a lot of ink and you will not have a problem seeing how much you have left so I do not see this as a problem.
The barrel is very slightly curved as it tapers down towards the piston nob, which it merges in with nicely. There is a black band where the two meet, giving a nice break between the parts. The bottom finial is plain and very slightly domed.
The piston itself, as covered else where, is metal and sourced from the 580, as is the nib, though here it is ruthenium plated.
The cap can be posted and does not add that much extra length, however it really does throw out the balance of the pen making it rather back heavy.
I would like to hope the Vac 700 used the same nib as the 580 and the 700R only came out after the Aurora. If not then I’m confused as to the nib choice. Visually it looks too small for then pen. Sure the colour of it fits in with the clip, rings, and other ‘bright work’, but it looks out of place. The size #6 in the 700R would have fitted far better, it also may have given a better writing experience. Now this is not bad, the ink flows well and the writing experience is smooth, but there is also a slight bit of tooth there with a very stiff nib. Not my taste, but will probably work well with some one who prefers Pelikan, Montblanc, Sailor or Platinum pens. I think this may also be down to the nib being a fine. I used my 580 for a good 1 to 2 years before putting it in to reserve and then eventually in to a drawer and do not remember the same issue, though that has a medium nib. Both though are slightly anonymous in the way they write, which is partly what doomed my 580.
Build wise this pen is solid and well made. It also feels substantial in the hand. Sure I know that people have reported TWSBI Classics leaking at the ink window, but I do not have one so can’t comment. What I do know is the same people have complained about 580s and Ecos cracking yet I’ve not had those problems despite a number of mine receiving what would be considered abuse, especially my 580 (non AL with more acrylic parts) which was loose in a pencil case being knocked against other pens for a good year or so.
So do I regret not being able to buy this pen when it came out. No. Many of my issues are down to my personal tastes and preferences, however at the same time it feels like a flawed design and this may be why we’ve seen no more with this shape, after all TWSBI do have a reputation for milking limited and special editions and this could have been the start of a profitable series.
Do I think this pen is value for money? Yes, even though it was expensive for a TWSBI. Sure by the time it would have arrived in the UK it would have been ~£100, which is Pelikan M200 money, however it is a larger pen and I was not impressed by the finish on my M200 Café Creme. We are still talking about a piston filler with a large capacity which is well made and not a blatant clone.
Am I glad I rented the pen. Yes, as it gave me a chance to not only experience it in the flesh but also try out a pen I’ve long wondered about. Sure I, in more normal times, have the advantage of a couple of pen clubs I attend, but there are limits to what people have and are willing to bring along with them. In addition in the UK we’ve been locked down or heavily restricted for eight months now and this probably continue for another three or four, even with the vaccines now being rolled out, so meeting to try out other people’s pens is not a possibility at present.
A free shout out to Pen Sharing, through whom I rented the pen and through which more may be obtained for review. If/when I pull my finger out I may also photo and list some of my Franklin Christophs there. Note it is a UK only service to keep recorded/tracked postal costs down to reasonable levels and have a guaranteed insurance mechanism in place.
- Interesting acrylic.
- Feels solid in the hand.
- Ink capacity.
- Reasonable value for money though expensive for a TWSBI.
- Some what generic appearance.
- Visually the nib is too small to the proportions of the pen.
- Nail like nib (very much personal preference is for softer, bouncier ones).
- Threads are narrow and hard and can be felt.
- Noticeable step up from grip section to threads.
- Noticeable step up from threads to barrel.
- Uncomfortable in the hand.