Montegrappa Fortuna Review
Though I quite enjoy Italian pens, Montegrappa is a brand whose products I’ve yet to experience. Despite having some attractive designs, Montegrappa’s price points sometimes make their pens feel unapproachable. So when I had the opportunity to pick up a Fortuna at a significantly reduced price, I had to take the plunge. After all, fortune favors the bold, right? Right?
Materials & Construction
The Montegrappa Fortuna is available in a variety of materials, including solid-color resins, patterned-resin "Mosaico" versions, "Heartwood," and metal versions in steel or copper. These materials are paired with a variety of metal furnishings such as palladium, rose gold, and ruthenium. The version I'm reviewing here is made of black resin paired with gunmetal trim. The resin itself is a bit bland: it has a glossy, polished look and feel, but doesn't have any truly distinctive characteristics.
The gunmetal trim, on the other hand, has a bit more visual flair. On the clip and cap band, the trim has a brushed look, and the direction of the brushed pattern matches the orientation of the component part. By that I mean the brushing on the clip flows vertically along the length of the clip, while the brushing on the cap band flows horizontally around the circumference of the cap band. It's a minor detail, but one that I notice and enjoy. The gunmetal trim also appears on the cap's inlaid finial, where "1912" (the year Montegrappa was founded) appears above a laurel (or is it yanny?).
Unfortunately, the use of metal on this pen isn't entirely beneficial. Specifically, the pen uses metal threads and tenons to join its various components. While that isn't a huge deal for me on the joint where the barrel meets the section, the threads that join the cap and section are problematic for two reasons. First, the threads themselves are sharp, to the point where you will definitely notice them when you run your fingers along them, and will likely find them mildly abrasive at best, and unacceptably uncomfortable at worst. Second, capping the pen produces an unpleasant, gritty, scratchy metal-twisting-on-metal sort of sound that is somewhat cringeworthy. This may be the sort of issue that goes away with time, but during the course of my review, I haven't witnessed any noticeable improvement.
Finally, fit and finish on this pen leaves something to be desired. The feed rarely seats flush with the nib and often is canted at an angle. The cap doesn't always mesh cleanly with the section threads, which only exacerbates the issue with the annoying scratchy sound. Additionally, the clip is extremely stiff and doesn't have much ramp to it, which means concentrated effort is required to clip and remove it from pen slots and fabrics. What annoys me most of all, though, is that the tiny wheel at the end of the clip sort of spins, but doesn't really spin freely, and feels just as tight and gritty as the other components on the pen.
If I had to describe the design of the Fortuna in a single word, I think I would go with ‘inelegant.’ There’s just something about the pen that seems unrefined. Let’s start with the cap: it’s quite bulbous in relation to the rest of the pen, and seems a bit out of proportion. If you’re familiar with the Faber-Castell Loom, the look is similar, but the taper on the Loom is more even and balanced. To the Fortuna’s credit, though, the clip on this pen is definitely more attractive than the clip on the Loom: it’s beveled on three angles, and the wheel adds some much-appreciated visual distinction, even if it doesn't exactly function perfectly. I’m less of a fan of the cap band, which adds an unnecessarily wide beltline to the pen. The section and barrel are both tapered, but are otherwise uninteresting.
The pen uses a cartridge/converter filling system and accepts the standard international variety of both. The pen does ship with two short cartridges and a converter, each of which is inscribed with the Montegrappa wordmark, which I find to be a nice touch.
In the Hand
The Fortuna is generally comfortable in hand, with some caveats. While the pen can be posted, I really don’t enjoy doing so for two reasons. First, the cap adds substantial length (more than 20mm) when posted, and it simply feels too long. Second, the cap itself weighs 13g and while that may not sound like a lot, the body of the pen only weighs 18g, so posting the cap makes it quite back-heavy. For these reasons, I find myself avoiding using this pen posted.
When used unposted, the pen does have good balance and sufficient length to provide a comfortable writing experience. Moreover, the section is long enough to afford a good grip, provided your fingers don’t find their way onto the aforementioned sharp section threads. I find myself gripping the pen a bit closer to the nib to avoid those threads, but that sometimes leads to another problem: because the section doesn’t flare outward as it approaches the nib, my fingers do sometimes slip onto the nib. The result is that there’s sort of a ‘sweet spot’ to this section, so this may be a pen you want to handle in person first if you are considering buying one.
Material & Design
The nib on the Fortuna is made of steel, which many may find to be a disappointment on a pen in this price range (more on that in the “Value” section below). Personally, I try to avoid the temptation of deeming steel nibs ‘strictly worse’ than gold ones, but this nib’s flaws extend far beyond its composite material (see “Performance” below).
On the plus side, I am quite fond of the design of the nib. To start, the nib itself has a dark hue that matches the gunmetal trim on the rest of the pen quite nicely. What’s really fetching, though, is the octagonal/rhomboid pattern that’s uniquely Montegrappa. It’s the same pattern they use on the box of the pen, and I’m quite taken with it. If I’m being completely candid, it’s this nib design that really drove me to purchase the pen in the first place, and it’s one of the few things that’s lived up to my expectation. I will say, though, that the pattern looks even more attractive on their shinier nibs, and I somewhat regret opting for the gunmetal trim. Aside from the pattern, the Montegrappa wordmark appears front and center on the nib, while the nib designation rests at the base of the nib.
The nib on my Fortuna was extremely scratchy out of the box, which resulted in both uncomfortable feedback and an unpleasant sound when writing with it. Though the pen would write consistently, it just felt kind of gross and induced shivers down my spine on more than one occasion. When I examined the tines under a loupe, I quickly learned that they were severely out of alignment, to a degree that is just unacceptable for a fresh-from-the-factory nib, let alone one on a pen at this price point.
Though I was able to sort out the alignment issue with a little massaging and tuning, it nevertheless leaves a sour impression on me, particularly since this is the first Montegrappa pen I’ve ever purchased. Apart from the loupe, I didn’t need any tools to correct the issue, but those with less experience in nib tuning may lack either the patience or knowledge to correct the issue, in which case they’ll either be stuck with an under-performing pen or be forced to shell out additional money to have someone else take care of the issue.
Post-tuning, the nib does write well. It’s no longer scratchy, writes sufficiently wet, and even has some give to it to allow for modest line variation. But the state it’s in now is worlds apart from the condition in which I received it, and I just don’t think it’s reasonable to impose this sort of maintenance on the user for a brand new (and quite expensive) pen.
As of the time of this writing, standard editions of the Montegrappa Fortuna sell for around $260-$280 at various online retailers. Ordinarily I might try to be more delicate with my words, but at this price I'm forced to be blunt: the Fortuna is a terrible value. This pen is aptly named because it costs an absolute fortune. I cannot recommend this pen at full retail price, and I suspect anyone who has the misfortune of paying full retail for one would soon have buyer's remorse. I was able to pick up my pen at almost half price and, if I'm being completely honest, I still feel ripped off. The bland materials, scratchy steel nib, below average fit and finish, and uninspiring design simply don't justify the asking price.
I mean, seriously, would you rather have a Fortuna or:
- a Sailor Pro Gear Special Edition?
- a Pilot Custom 823?
- a LAMY 2000 and an Opus 88 Koloro Demonstrator?
- two Pilot Vanishing Points?
- a Faber-Castell e-Motion and $100 in your pocket?
- a Platinum 3776 Century in EF, F, M, and B (at Amazon prices)?
- a TWSBI Eco, Classic, Diamond Mini, Vac 700R, and Precision?
- 70+ Jinhaos (that you could start giving away to friends and new fountain pen users)?
- 1,120 McNuggets?
Personally I think I'd take any of the above alternatives. OK, maybe not the McNuggets...
On second thought, I'd probably take the McNuggets.
Final Thoughts & Score
- Comfortable in hand unposted
- Attractive nib design
- Gunmetal trim and nib provide a sleek, stealthy look
- Steel nib is extremely scratchy out of the box; tines misaligned
- Fit and finish throughout leaves much to be desired
- Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad value