sign of the times | Augustman Singapore
Signatures have the power to start and end wars. The Treaty of Versailles, which ends the First World War, is signed by Lloyd George, British Prime Minister. It also has the power to shape national destinies as King Edward VIII signed his abdication in 1936, paving the way for Queen Elizabeth II. In fact, the power of the humble pen is such that when Anne Frank accidentally threw her Montblanc fountain pen down the fireplace, she was so devastated that she wrote an “ode” to his pen, and the rest of his writings not only survived him, but endured to inform the national conscience.
According to Alexa Schilz, director of brand heritage, culture and sustainability, writing doesn’t just foster connection; expressing emotions like disagreement and love, but also mobilizes us as a society by promoting democracy and empowerment on a larger scale as catalysts for change through the power of writing. Indeed, often for nearly half a month’s rent or a month’s groceries, a Montblanc writing instrument with a 14-karat gold nib has the power to influence speech on a scale that has amortized over time. decades where the equivalent of approximately 1.6 billion plastic ballpoint pens end up in the trash each year in the continental United States alone.
Today, humans seem inextricably linked to their cellphones, tablets and other electronic communication devices and while it’s easy to dismiss the relevance of writing instruments in the digital age, Vincent Montalescot, EVP Marketing, quickly dismisses the idea that text messages are impersonal pixels, “nobody collects screenshots of emails or app messages, but you’d keep a nicely handwritten birthday card or letter.”
Montalescot then turns the table around with a question of “why do we collect these memories” which again turns the answer into a beacon of absolute clarity, “we keep the postcards because they are impermanent. You know they will last a while, but if you don’t store them properly, you will lose them. The fear of this loss makes you cherish these letters more. Montalescot further explains: “This means that there is no conflict with the digital world. Putting pen to paper brings a very unique emotion that you don’t get from pixels on a screen and it’s just reality. I don’t see a “challenge”, I see an opportunity. »
It’s all in the pen
Montblanc is one of the world’s preeminent manufacturers of writing instruments, if not the most preeminent. The Meisterstück, its emblematic pen created in 1924, is about to celebrate its centenary. and of those who have used them to share their imprint on humanity. Spread over 3 levels and 3600 m², Montblanc Haus, is a destination that tells the story of Montblanc from its founding days until today, and of the women and men who craft Montblanc writing instruments bringing to life the value and potential of writing and the ways in which it helps people reach their full potential and leave their mark on the world. In fact, world leaders from popes to CEOs have been photographed signing crucial documents using a Montblanc pen. (Think Barack Obama, Warren Buffett, the Dalai Lama, Pope Benedict.)
In fact, men of great importance and the equally remarkable documents they sign appreciate a fine writing instrument because nothing writes like a fountain pen. Even though technology has improved, the new fancy liquid ink rollerballs haven’t come close to the majesty and flair of such a pen. For those who use fountain pens daily, their beauty transcends their usefulness, it does more than just take ink from a reservoir and transfer it to paper, it does so in a way that makes note taking mundane. , for example, and makes it extraordinary. With little or no pressure, a good pen simply glides across the page.
With prices starting at “low” at $555 and reaching over a million, prices are largely dictated by the materials used for a pen’s body. While many of Montblanc’s writing instruments are rendered in resin or plastic, some of the special or high-art editions are decorated with precious metals, usually gold and even palladium, some even with mother-of-pearl treatments. lacquered. Yet when it comes to performance, all gentlemen will pay particular attention to one singular point of the utmost importance – the feather.
Most vintage fountain pens required 70 manual operations, today, even with new techniques and the rise of more efficient hand tools, Montblanc still takes 105 steps to make a handcrafted writing instrument. “The feather alone requires 35 manufacturing steps,” describes Montalescot. This distinctive metal part of the pen where the ink flows is solid gold with an iridium nib.
In the Nib Manufacture department, craftsmen work clinically. While today there is a mixture of genres, once only women were stationed there because they were the ones who had the quiet patience to perform the precise measurements in the manufacture of a feather. Nowadays, everyone is trained at every stage so as not to disrupt production, although only a handful remain expert at two of the most crucial stages.
Proud of the attention to detail, Montalescot says the process continues “until putting the pen to the paper and listening, even feeling what is happening on the paper. If the experience does not meet their standards, the process goes back to step one. Montblanc Haus truly expresses who we are.
The art of writing
For many fountain pen enthusiasts, the sine qua non of the genre is a model, typically vintage, with a flexible gold nib. Such a tip provides flexibility that takes advantage of the dexterity of the wearer where the pressure and angle of press allow the gold tines to spread out: the higher the pressure the wider the tines allowing more ink from flowing, thus widening the line; reduce the pressure and the teeth contract, leaving a finer line. At Haus, we learn that an extremely flexible “wet noodle” or nib in the hands of a skilled calligrapher can create extremely beautiful line variations. it’s that reminder of the pen’s humble beginnings, first in the form of nibs whose flexible tips were trimmed and split to form a perfect, yet primitive, “wet noodle”.
When pen makers like Montblanc perfected the art of making these nib tips out of metal, they revolutionized a whole new class of calligraphy, notably the Spencerian script, which originated with American accountant Platt Rogers Spencer, who in turn adapted the English Copperplate.
Unfortunately, schools in many developed countries have emphasized late cursive and calligraphy and Montalescot and Schill are eager to point out that Montblanc offers courses for underprivileged students and children. “There are more than 100 million children in the world who cannot write. There are even some who have already been on the internet but who have not yet had access to the written word. Montblanc will not be able to solve this problem, but we participate and support communities and NGOs in literary matters. Montblanc Haus has dedicated space and programs where we host classes from the school where they can experience different aspects of writing,” says EVP Marketing of Montblanc.
Ms. Schill echoes her sentiment: “The fact is, handwriting is something proven to manifest thought and foster creativity. As soon as children do not learn or understand the importance of this, they risk losing something vital to existence. What is particularly surprising is that the children we welcomed really appreciated the calligraphy course; many of them complained that they didn’t like their writing and the teacher worked with them to improve and you know that feeling you get when you like your signature? It’s a defining moment and I think the classes will at least give people the opportunity to have a signature they like.
Yes, it’s true, if you’re worried that your handwriting isn’t good enough to take advantage of the attributes of a fountain pen, rest assured: over time, the right pen can actually improve your handwriting, because it takes some discipline to hold such a writing instrument correctly, it gradually teaches your fingers to form smoother and more elegant curves.
“We envisioned creating a special home for the art of writing, a place where people could discover or rediscover the incredible power of handwriting and the creativity, imagination and emotion it brings. liberate in everyone. Montblanc Haus was conceived as a journey of discovery, told through the eyes of a company that has been at the heart of writing culture for over 115 years. We hope Montblanc Haus will become a meaningful landmark for Hamburg, a city so important to Montblanc’s history and identity, and for local communities and far-flung visitors to discover and enjoy,” says Nicolas Baretzki, CEO by Montblanc.
Throughout the Haus, visitors are invited to experience the wonder of handwriting in a very personal way. In addition, they can test Montblanc writing instruments and send postcards with their thoughts all over the world.
Montblanc Haus now open.