Shiny rainbow colours have always appealed to me. Be it looking through the coloured cellophane outer wrappers of Quality Street as a kid, Cokin coloured diffuser filter sheets (082A) (see pictures at the end) when I was experimenting with photography as a student, the TWSBI VAC 700R Iris from a few months back, and now the Gravitas Skittle. To be honest the first time I saw a picture of Ben Walsh’s multicoloured creation I felt the pangs of want. The inner Gollum in me whispered ‘my precious’. Sure it was available in both matt and shiny forms, but to me those rainbow colours must cry out loud, not stay muted. Just a shame he sold out quickly. Very quickly.
Roll forwards a few months and there was news of Ben releasing a new model, the Entry, added to which there was chatter within the contributors of United Inkdom about this and the original Gravitas pen. My interest was rekindled, not helped by a change on Ben’s website. The Skittle Polished was now listed as ‘Coming Soon’ along with an email alert option. Not long after a notification was received, an order was made, and a parcel arrived containing a colourful scented tube, and within that, the pen.
It is quite hard to describe this pen without sounding a bit like a stoned out hippy. There is nothing subtle about it, be it the weight, the size, or the colours. It reminds of an album cover from the 1960s. If Jim Morrison were to grab a fountain pen, it would be this one, and he would quite probably stare into it for hours.
Ignoring the rainbow colours for the moment, the pen is cigar shaped and made of stainless steel with the exception of the finials, which, to quote the product web page is “a protective finial made from silicon nitride embedded into the end of the cap and barrel“. I’m not sure if these are to protect the pen if it is dropped or to protect what ever you were to drop it on to. Being stainless steel it has heft, though it is still a comparative light weight compared to the brass Namisu Nova I used to own (89g v 74g capped, 63g v 49g uncapped), so while many will use this pen only as a note taker I know from experience I could use it for a couple of pages at a time.
Aside from the PVD coated patterning and the finials, the only other distinguishing mark or feature is the Gravitas emblem laser engraved in the cap just above the opening.
The cap removes in just over one turn to reveal an equally shiny grip. The nib collar ring, start of the threads, and the slope up from these to the barrel proper are in a yellow colour that reminds me of brass and did make me wonder is this was the material the pen was made of. The threads themselves show signs that they have been coloured as well, though only at their base as I assume any coating on edges of the threads would be worn off by use. Look inside the cap and again you have the rainbow colours leading up to the inner threads. Remove the barrel an unsurprisingly much of the hidden metalwork has also been PVD coated. Ben could have stopped at just the outside and no one would have considered the job to be unfinished yet he has taken the process about as far as it is possible.
The section is quite long at about 3 cm and very gently tapered down towards the nib. This is important as I find the more curved the grip the more pressure you apply and with shiny metal pens this means the more likely it is the pen will slip in your hands. Not so here where very little pressure is required to maintain a comfortable hold. There is a slight lip at the end to prevent your fingers getting inky. Being a steel pen, the weight of the barrel means the balance point is towards the rear, about an inch back from the threads. As a result if you want to do more than just note taking then you may find it more comfortable to hold the pen slightly further back than you normally would. The length of the section means this is quite easy to accomplish and the pen does feel rather comfortable to me. The smooth slope at the back of the threads also means that if your fingers rest here there is no discomfort and you can not feel the grooves.
For the nib you get a choice from the JoWo #6 range and I went for a medium. It is smooth and relatively wet, just like a JoWo nib should be.
Before I go any further I should mention the packaging. Rather than the traditional box Ben has gone for a coloured tube, more smarties than skittles (for those not in/from the UK smarties are like chocolate M&Ms and traditionally came in a small round tube). In addition it is scented. I can’t remember the reason, but it is partly for fun. As to the smell, to me there are hints of violets (think of the parma violet sweets), others have suggested fruit salad (a British soft, chewy, candy). This all works really well. The tube does not take up much space, is suitably coloured, and if you tend to throw the packaging away, well it is just cardboard. There was a small bag of cartridges as well, and these were separate in the enveloped used to send the pen.
Now my biggest issue is I’m struggling to find any issues. I know some people feel I am picky by finding faults in pens I rate highly and being brutally honest with my views, but such is the nature of this pen I’m struggling. Some may find the pen too heavy, but the stats and dimensions are plain to see on the website. Who knows, in time Ben may introduce aluminium or titanium pens in to his range for those desiring something lighter. At present he is bringing out new designs to expand upon his offerings, with the Entry and Pocket pens and I personally think this is the right direction for him to take rather than experimenting with alternative materials.
So far I have not mentioned the price. Depending on the finish and patterning the standard Gravitas pen ranges from €70 to €105 (£60-£90, $85-$125) which is not much for a lot of pen. This particular model comes in at €80. I think postage to the UK was €10-€15.
Am I glad I bought this pen. Oh yes, even if it’s just a shiny thing to look at and play around with in the light. In reality it is a nice writer and comfortable to hold. Would I recommend one to others? As long as the buyer was aware of the weight then yes. It is a very made pen with plenty of colour and pattern options. For me the rainbow colours of the skittle finish is the one to go for, but then that’s just me. I’m eyeing Ben’s Pocket pen, which is due out towards the end of July, and again I’m strongly considering that near psychedelic visualisation once more.
- Well made.
- Skittle finish.
- Unique packaging.
- Price/value for money.
- Can be used to break the windows of a burning car to rescue the occupants…..
- Scented packaging.
- None that I can think of.
With the Cokin 082A coloured filter sheets: