A few weeks before the Spring 2022 London Pen Show I heard Onoto were working on a new lower cost model. An entry point to their range and heirloom ownership ethos. Little did I know that when I asked Feng Li of Onoto on the day, instead of being given snippets of information he rushed off and returned with a tray full of the first batch which they were selling pre-launch at the show. If these were numbered or came with ownership cards like their other models, I would now have number #1. Monday this week (the 21st of March 2022) the pen went live on their website.
As I go through I will try to compare the Scholar with my original Magna Classic, as that is effectively the previous base model. Sure I have the gold nib in mine, but spoiler time, the nib on the Scholar might be steel, but it is the stock standard size #7 you get by default on many of their other pens.
By itself you can tell it is an Onoto with the front of the clip hidden. The general shape of the cap and barrel, the way the edges taper then chamfer off. Something might feel slightly off but it is only when you compare a Scholar to a Classic that you see what they have done to bring a pen out at this price point. I should mention now if you are expecting it to be sub £100 pen or even the £129 the first batch were sold for at the pen show then you may be disappointed. At launch this British made pen is £195, but at the same time bear in mind the entry Classic is £399 and also the Scholar comes wrapped in the relatively new Onoto one pen leather roll which alone retails at £45 and is a well made piece of protection.
Packaging wise there is a difference as the outer cardboard box is some what narrower than before and the large lacquered wooden box has been replaced with the aforementioned roll.
The most obvious differences are the materials used for the bright work. On the Classic and the limited editions based upon it, you have sterling silver cap bands, cap and barrel finials, plus a clip which is moulded/stamped/pressed on both sides. With the Scholar you have a single, wide cap band, which feels like it is made out of a white metal, same for the cap finial, and the barrel is plain, even without the Onoto stamping on the side. The clip looks and feels the part but is flat and unmarked underneath, which makes sense as how many of us even notice what’s on the underside.
While the difference in cap bands is obvious, you are just left feeling they are different styles not that the design has been cheapened. The cap finial, however, is the one part where you can see the attempt to reduce costs. By itself it is fine, the emblem is perfectly aligned, but it looks a little cheap and almost as if it is made of plastic. Compare to the one on the Classic and the difference does stand out. This does, however, feel like I am being a little picky. Another difference, which some people will welcome, is uncapping. It takes just 1 smooth turn which is a lot quicker than with other pens in their range.
The resins used feel the same, however remove the barrels and compare and you will see the new pen has thinner material. Not by much and the pen does not feel cheap as a result, in fact you may not notice as the Scholar barrel has a brass lining along the upper two thirds. This balances the pen perfectly and helps add to the feel of quality. Of note, the barrel weight is a £30 optional extra with the Classic.
Size wise the Scholar is slightly shorter and thinner, though the section is of a similar length. The Classic is not exactly the largest of pens but I would still not call it pen thin. Still people who like girth and feel the regular Onotos are borderline too narrow might find the Scholar a bit too small. Oddly enough while both post their caps securely, on the new pen the cap sits far further back, making it longer than the Classic. While the balance does move further back I personally do not think it is too bad (though you must remember I try to avoid posting pens if I can).
The sections at first look similar, but much of this is down to the pens using the standard nib and the shape of the finger stop being the same. The Classic tapers in over twice as much though they are both about the same size at the end. Using digital callipers I read 12.5mm -> 10.1 for the Classic and 11.1mm -> 10.1 for the Scholar. In addition the section is flat near the threads, with it angling in part way along. Length wise the grip area is very similar with both pens. I find both to be comfortable in the hand though they do feel rather different to hold due to the differences in shape.
Nib wise, nothing to see here, move along. Actually it is worth repeating the spoiler I mentioned near the top. The Scholar uses the same steel #7 nib as is the default in most the other Onoto pens. It is available in the usual range of tipping sizes though the gold nib option is not available, but bear in mind that comes as a £169 extra, so would almost double the cost of this pen. Now having three Onotos with gold nibs and two with steel, I am not sure the gold variant offers that much extra so I would suggest with the Scholar to keeping with just the steel nib as it fits to the ethos of an entry point to the brand. Net result, like it’s more expensive siblings, this is one sweet writer.
The filling system is cartridge converter and the pen comes with the standard Schmidt K5 converter installed. This is branded, which is now the norm for Onoto, where as up to a month or so back they were always plain.
A few times now I have mentioned ethos. This is because Onoto see their pens as heirlooms to be handed down and for which they provide lifetime guarantees. This has been continued with the Scholar.
So what are my views. I love my Scholar and it is getting a lot of use. It has now become my ‘in-use’ black ink pen. Now obviously I got mine as part of the pre-launch show deal so what do I think about the retail price of £195. I know people will quickly point out that you can buy a Leonardo Momento Zero for £165, but that comes without the life time guarantee and the leather pen case, plus here you get an Onoto specific #7 nib, not a branded JoWo stock #6. In addition Onoto traditionally test their pens before they go out so you should get the perfect writing experience from the start.
Do I recommend the Onoto Scholar. If you’ve been considering an Onoto but struggling to justify the £400+ price then yes. If you are looking for a quality pen that should last a life time and has character, then again yes. If £195 is just a bit too much and the leather role does not help twist your arm, then it is worth remembering last year Onoto had a 10% discount offer on International Fountain Pen Day, so maybe wait for the first Friday in November.
- Looks like an Onoto without seeing the clip/markings.
- Great writer.
- Onoto ownership ethos.
- Onoto #7 sized nib.
- With the pre-release show price I think many may have been hoping it would be closer to the £150 mark.
- Next to a Classic it can look ‘cheaper’.
- Included pen wrap is a great idea but some people may prefer to get the pen for less without the roll.
- Hard to think of any.
First with other Onotos,
Now with the ubiquitous Lamy Safari/Al-Star.