Rouge et Noir: 110 Years of Montblanc

Sam Kessler (Online Editor)
To celebrate their milestone anniversary, Montblanc recreate the pen that set them on the road to success...

Pens haven’t changed all that much over the years. Granted there’s a good amount of distance between the modern fountain pen and a quill, but how exactly have they advanced in the past century? They’ve been refined, enhanced, produced in any material you’d care to name, but when was the last time the humble pen was truly revolutionised?

You need to go all the way back to 1906 to find out. This was when the first ever non-leaking fountain pen was built, a vital advancement for the sartorially inclined. Given that a decade and a half later, Montblanc created the iconic Meisterstuck, you could be forgiven for forgetting their role in the blueprint of the fountain pen as a whole. 

Montblanc Rouge et Noir Special Edition Coral Fountain Pen, £565


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But as the pen maker, leatherworker, watchmaker and stationer celebrates their 110th anniversary, it’s a good fact to bear in mind. Montblanc themselves certainly have been, with a reworking of that preliminary pioneering design – the Rouge et Noir special edition.

It’s not hard to believe this is a design over a century old; every line oozes vintage style. The straight body eschews the undulating ergonomic curves of most Montblanc pens, while the coral colouring – it seems the pen maker has a different definition of what constitutes red – is certainly unusual. Yet what grabs the attention most is actually the clip.

Back when the original Rouge et Noir was made, the fashion wasn’t to have the clips integrated into the cap, but rather to have them as a separate entity. It meant that you could customise your pen with any clip you wanted, giving your writing instrument a unique personality. The serpent twined around the Rouge et Noir is certainly not short of that.

Montblanc Rouge et Noir Special Edition Fountain Pen, £470


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However simplistic the main body of the pen is, more than enough attention has been lavished on the clip. Though it looks like aged silver, the serpent is actually made from a special alloy that, through a particular galvanisation process, ends up with a wonderful vintage feel. The coiled animal looks distinctly separate from the cap itself, though you needn’t worry about it coming loose. A good thing too, as that delicately scaled body and shining emerald eyes wouldn’t be easy to replace.

Remove the cap and you’re greeted by a more subtle mirror of the crowning serpent, the snake’s head finely engraved in gold on the otherwise rhodium-plated nib. It’s a delicate touch that adds a little flash of luxury every time you touch pen to paper.

Montblanc Serpent Cufflinks, £320

Montblanc Serpent Cufflinks

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Not that it’s all vintage; the silhouette is actually a lot longer and slimmer than the original – more so even than many of Montblanc’s current collection - and the filler and nib technologies both have been refined over the last 110 years. Yet its style is utterly unmistakable.

The coral version of the Rouge et Noir might be the headline piece of Montblanc’s anniversary collection, but it’s by no means a solo act. Alongside rollerball and ballpoint versions of the pure coral, the Noir of the collection is given a chance in a set of black pens.

Far more subtle than its brighter sibling, this version of the Rouge et Noir special edition – again, available in all three instruments - still keeps a little touch of coral on the cap, acting as a background for Montblanc’s iconic star. It’s also slightly more understated in the finer details, without the precious stones in the snake’s eyes and foregoing the yellow gold embellishment on the nib in favour of full rhodium coating, albeit still with the snake’s head engraving.

Montblanc Serpent Tie Bar, £205

Montblanc Serpent Tie Bar

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It’s a little more elegant in black and certainly more approachable, but it loses something of its individuality, its delightfully vintage feel.

Even then, two pieces doesn’t really make a collection. Ok, six if you’re counting the rollerball and ballpoint versions too, but variation is no bad thing either way, especially not when it results in a few rather lovely accessories to complement the pens.

Montblanc Rouge et Noir Notebook #146, £50


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Being the definitive element of the Rouge et Noir collection, the snake is a consistent motif throughout and makes its first non-pen appearance in cufflink form. A more twisted shape than the pen clip, their oxidised metalwork is enhanced with a pair of brightly lacquered red eyes. There’s also a set of more precious cufflinks, exchanging the silver for rose gold and the lacquer for rubies, emeralds or sapphires – the emeralds in particular are stunning.

The accessories are rounded off with a tie clip to match the cufflinks, the snake’s body straightened out in silver. It definitely makes a more interesting addition to the usual gold tie bar as the snake’s body undulates slightly along its length.

The final addition to the collection - other than the tags you can currently get with Montblanc's soft grain leather pieces - is really the only thing you should be using the Rouge et Noir pens to actually write on. Not only does the lined notebook have snaked criss-crossing the embossed leather, it comes complete with silver gilt edging and a wrap bearing the image of an original Rouge et Noir advert to complete the vintage feel.

Montblanc Meisterstuck Soft Grain Small Duffle, £830


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In 1906, Montblanc revolutionised the mechanics of a fountain pen. Not too long after they perfected the luxury pen in the Meisterstuck.  110 years since their founding the German company has come a long way, stretching their reach into leather, jewellery and haute horology, earning their esteemed reputation in each. By using their anniversary to look back at their past, Montblanc have only stirred excitement for the future; there’s surely still plenty to come.

To make an enquiry about any of the pieces featured in this article, CLICK HERE.


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