It's all about the written word...

Celebrating three years in publication. Thank you for visiting often!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'm Ready for My Closeup...

I've had more than a few requests for closeups on the new one-of-a-kind Caran d'Ache 1010 with Diamonds that I posted on an earlier blog. So enjoy... It's all in the details, after all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Marlen Does What It Does Best: Limited Editions…and maybe a little pasta.

I always enjoy my annual meeting with Marlen—specifically with Attilio Puggina, international sales director. Thankfully his English is far superior to my Italian, but since I am also of Mediterranean origin, I can usually get by with hand gestures and an appropriate arch of my brow. Puggina is an engaging man who knows a lot about pens, having been with Marlen now for several years. This year we met once again in Switzerland during the BaselWorld exhibition, and he showed me a few of the company’s upcoming limited editions that have not yet been seen on this side of the Atlantic. I am happy to share my scoop. The first is the Imperium Romanum, an homage to the Roman Empire, which will be available in a fountain pen or a rollerball pen. Just 395 fountain pens will be available, and each will retail for under $2,000. The second is the Antiche Origini, which is comprised of buffalo horn, mammoth ivory and resin. Just 38 fountain pens will be available, each at about $5,000. Finally, is the truly amazing tribute to Botticelli (this year is the 500th anniversary of his death). Each fountain pen is “painted” freehand with hot enamel by artists employed by Marlen specifically for this purpose. Just 28 fountain pens will be produced, each priced at a little over $5,000. All the pens mentioned here are piston filled and have 18-karat gold nibs—and they will be available in May. Their packaging, too, is quite elegant: lacquered wooden boxes specific to each theme. On a much lighter note, the company has also introduced a pen with the working title of “the Pasta Pen.” Its red, white and green resin exterior is, of course, a tribute to the Italian flag, while the shape of the pen is reminiscent of penne pasta with its angled ends. I think it’s a winner, not to mention a marketer’s dream. Mario Esposito and Antonio Esposito are the founding principals of the Marlen. The former is in charge of global marketing, while Antonio is in charge of design. Bravo, gentlemen.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not Yet Seen in the US… Caran d’Ache Introduces Two New Amazing Pens in Its 1010 Collection in Basel, Switzerland

While at the recent BaselWorld watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland, I attended a variety of really enjoyable evening events hosted by the watch brands, which offered a welcome change from my heavy schedule of meetings during the day. They usually involved wonderful food, entertainment of some sort, and my personal favorite, an opportunity to talk with people I rarely see. One such event (though hosted by a pen company) was Caran d’Ache’s soiree (held March 19), intended to introduce some amazing new writing instruments. It was held on the thirtieth floor of the Ramada Inn, adjacent to the official trade show space. After a little while I figured out how to get there on an elevator that seemed to go no higher than “9.” Lucky for me, I rode it with a Swiss comedian (I had no prior evidence there was such a thing, and I’m still not sure, though I once met a Swiss mime), who really made the time fly (I’m really still not sure). My feeling is if I’m alone in a strange city in an enclosed space with someone who says he’s a comedian, the only proper thing to do is be amused. Besides, my mind was on Caran d’Ache and the party, which I was then a few minutes late for. The comedian went elsewhere.

Aside from the fact that the company offers some wonderful pens, I must admit that the Switzerland-based Caran d’Ache has—and always has had, for as long as I can remember—one of the most cordial executive teams I have ever met. I was greeted by a few members, then made my way to the back of the long and narrow room where both the champagne bar and a few heavily veiled showcases stood. My hosts included a real hero of mine: Mr. Jacques Hubscher, President. I’ve known him for at least twenty years, and he remains as vital and interesting—and interested—as ever. His charisma stems in part from his obvious intelligence as well as his absolute engagement in any conversation he is having. He moves fluidly between languages, and maintains a quiet, humble and focused demeanor. A real charmer in my book. Also present were CEO Philippe de Korodi and Urs Messerli, International Duty Free Manager /Export Manager Americas. They, too, carry the Caran d’Ache message with great style and aplomb. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. de Korodi last year, and he is thoughtful and smart. Mr. Messerli, with whom I work most frequently, is approachable and very insightful.

At precisely the appointed time, the veils were lifted from the showcases, and the newest novelties were revealed. The ones that immediately caught my eye were the new one-of-a-kind 1010 Diamonds and the 1010 Chrono Sport. The former is made of white gold and is set with 850 diamonds. Like its predecessor, it recalls fine watchmaking in its design and sparkles like there's no tomorrow. In the words of the company, “The sophisticated cap is created by a unique process of hammering and mounting that recalls the gear teeth theme of the 1010 Collection. Its 26 lines of 22 baguette-cut diamonds are set individually in the purest traditions of the craft. As a touch of supreme refinement, alternate lines are inversed to reveal the “culasse” (the base of the diamond) which is specially cut to give the stones a wonderful sparkle. Each line of baguettes is given its own dimensions, making a total of 44 different cuts.

“The diamond-encrusted cap is crowned with the Caran d’Ache monogram and its clip, in the form of a watch hand, is set with a glittering brilliant. At the other end, an oscillating weight, a marvel of precision, is paved with diamonds. The body of the pen comprises two cages created in the purest spirit of jewelry. The bridges of the exterior cage are inspired by the gear train of a watch and are set with 150 emerald-cut diamonds. The interior cage, entirely in white gold, evokes the wheels of time. Lastly, the ring explodes with a brilliance that competes with any jewellery. Its 96 white baguettes are punctuated by black diamonds that indicate the quarters on the dial of a clock.” No one there even ventured a guess at its price.

The other pen from the 1010 Series, the 1010 Chrono Sport, was equally impressive and very clever, but obviously in a, well, sporty way. I really liked it. Again in Caran d’Ache’s words: “With an astonishing interplay of depth and volume, the two cages that constitute the body of the 1010 Chrono Sport evoke the wheels and gear trains in the movement of a watch. On the skeleton fuselage, three delicate engravings suggest the counters and the decoration of the bridges, while the black inner chassis depicts the gear train of a high-performance chronograph, with one wheel meticulously hand-painted in red. The ring, like the bezel of a watch, carries luminescent hour markers visible in the darkest of nights. The cap, coated with velvety black lacquer, is fluted like a watch crown, giving the impression of a streamlined racing body. The clip, in the form of a watch hand, is topped by a sparkling ruby. The fountain pen, set with a ruby, has a piston pump finished in black, soft-touch matte lacquer. The nib, in 18-karat rhodium-coated gold, is polished by hand and offers a supple and unmatched level of writing precision that testifies to the expertise of Caran d’Ache craftsmen.” No price has yet been established.

After a second glass of champagne and some wonderful food, I hopped on a tram to the apartment that I called home for the week, feeling fortunate that I’d experienced such an evening.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Curtis Australia Spring Flowers

I met with Glenn and Heather Curtis in mid-February, in a hotel lobby in Manhattan Beach, CA. Los Angeles was one of their stops during their weeks-long business trip that began and ended in Victoria, Australia; I was there for the LA Pen Show. In case you don’t know, Glenn and Heather are the principals of the Curtis Australia brand of pens and accessories, perhaps most famous for its jewelry-quality limited editions. They are a talented and interesting couple I had the pleasure of entertaining in my home a couple of years ago, and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with them wherever and whenever possible. It’s no surprise that Glenn’s background is jewelry design and production and the lovely and statuesque Heather—in addition to her multiple business roles in the company—often serves as his muse. The new limited production Spring Flowers fountain pen is an example of her inspirational powers, since the primary floral motif is a variation of her favorite doodle while talking on the phone. This idle scribble became a recurring theme of the pen, surrounded by images of Asian bamboo, reed art and Japanese room screens. In all, over 80 brilliant-cut diamonds are handset into the sterling silver body, with diamonds in a rainbow of different colors—pink, yellow, green and blue—set into the petals of the flowers that are strewn about the cap and barrel. Having spent time with Mr. Curtis on numerous occasions, I feel I can safely say that this was no random scattering of art elements. Rather, each flower and each piece of the woodsy background was mindfully placed in its perfect position. Spring Flowers is not a pen for the faint of heart, since its feminine floral demeanor belies its heft and weight. But as one who likes bold pens, I think the counterpoint of design and profile is perfect. This fountain pen (which is also available as a rollerball pen) is the first of the Four Seasons Series to be released over the next eight years, and only four pens will be produced by Curtis Australia each month. The fountain pen with an 18-karat gold nib is priced at $8,800.

A pen is a powerful agent for inspiration. The designer merely starts the process; it is up to the writer to maintain the flow.