When I used to hear the name Montblanc, my mind would translate that to "A company with beautiful things I will never own." After having purchased the Montblanc Meisterstück Ultra Black LeGrand with a medium nib, that translation is gone. Now that voice is asking "Will they ever make something so nice again?"
This review will be split into two parts. Part one is the pen, Part two is the buying experience.
The LeGrand is one of the two fountain pen models with the Ultra Black finish, the other being the Classique. I tried the Classique first, but the LeGrand felt much better in my hand in terms of weight and comfort. While not a limited edition, the series is only available through 2016, so keep that in mind if you want to pick one up.
After taking the pen out of its well protected box, what you notice is the matte finish, and how nice it feels in the hand. The pen is made of precious resin, but looks like it is made of rubber, which I like a lot. The finial has a similar matte finish, including the trademark star logo. The section is a high gloss black (similar to the normal 146 and 149), with plenty of room to hold the pen without holding the threads. If you do write a bit further back the threads aren't sharp, so you won't feel pain while holding it. All of the furniture is plated in ruthenium, similar to the Visconti Homo-Sapiens Dark Age (those two pens together would look awesome). The cap band has Montblanc Meisterstück engraved on it with angled lines in each of the letters. Talk about attention to detail. The nib is 14k gold that is plated in ruthenium as well. One of my favorite features is the ink window, which disappears once filled (unless you hold it up to a light), blending into the rest of the body. While I think the term is overused, this pen looks stealthy. It is understated, yet unmistakably Montblanc with its shape and style. The clip is strong, and stays put easily in a shirt pocket without being hard to get in and out (same with pen cases). On the back of the clip band you also have the serial number, though it blends in if you aren't look for it. The cap posts well via friction, though the LeGrand is large enough I don't feel the need to post it.
Like the other pens in the 146/Le Grand line, this pen is a piston filler. Operation is simple. Twist the turning knob on the back of the pen, submerge the nib fully into the ink of your choice, and then twist the turning back into the closed position. Unlike cartridge converters, piston fillers give you a generous ink capacity for your use (which is good as they are kind of an annoyance to clean). Easy and elegant.
All of this is great, but if the pen writes like trash, then none of this matters. Worry not. Not only being a looker, the Ultra Black LeGrand is a great writer as well. From my initial fill, the pen lays down a good amount of ink and writes perfectly, no adjustment needed. A few weeks ago I had to go to a conference for a week. When I came back, the Ultra Black Legrand wrote with no startup issues at all. Like I said earlier, my nib is a medium, and I would call it a true European medium. Both the LeGrand and Classique are also available in a fine nib, if that more suits your fancy.
I love this pen (if you couldn't tell). If you are willing to pay the price for entry, it is a pen that will write well for you every time, and make you smile, even when you are using it to do less fun things like take notes at a work meeting. My only gripe (besides the price), is cleaning the piston filler, but both of these things are known quantities when you buy a pen of this caliber.
Buying the pen
Buying a pen like this is an investment. Since I hadn't ever held a LeGrand or Classique before, and wanted to get a feel for them in person. I went to the Paradise Pen/Montblanc store at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. As I walked in the gentleman there kind of gave me a quizzical look, as I was wearing the following Toxic Holocaust shirt:
Fortunately, he asked if it was a thrash metal band! Awesome. The gentleman's name was Joe Licata and he was the store manager. His attitude and professionalism were wonderful. I had been to a couple Paradise Pens in the past (Colorado) and I left feeling less than impressed, like I was bothering the people working there. Joe had a great attitude, was funny, and even gave me some info on where I can pick up some good homemade kielbasa. We sat down together where I got to try out both pens, and never felt like there was pressure to buy. And at that moment I didn't. I thanked him, left, and spend a bit of time eating lunch, hanging out with my wife and son at the mall, and debating on picking up the pen.
When I finally decided and came back, Joe was very helpful, explaining the importance of the stamp and embossed Montblanc logo he put on the back page of my care manual, and to let him know if I had any Visconti pens that needed work to let him know. Awesome. I shook his hand, very excited about my purchase, and feeling good about the entire exchange.
A few days later I got an envelope in the mail, with a note from Joe, thanking me for my purchase, and to let him know if I need anything. Since then I have gone back to pick up some of the Shakespeare Velvet Red ink as well, and will be buying more things from the store in the future. A positive, non-demeaning shopping experience goes a long way.
So that's that. A great experience all around. I would highly recommend buying one if it fits into your budget and the idea of a black pen that looks different enough from all the other black pens out there. It is a pen that I am happy to have as part of my collection, and really checks off all the marks that a great fountain pen should have.