Best of British? A review of the Onoto Magna Classic fountain pen

What epitomises Britishness? The bulldog? The stiff upper lip? Fish’n chips? A penchant for talking about the weather? A dedication to a convoluted parliamentary democracy? Well perhaps all of these and much more. But what about a pen? Can a brand of pen claim “essential Britishness?” Well the pen brand under review today does exactly that. Onoto, a brand that can be traced back to the De La Rue company of London in 1905 (since resurrected) is often spoken of by pen enthusiasts with hushed tones. You can check out their website and history here. Today I’m glad to be able to review the Onoto Magna Classic (blue and gold edition). This pen claims its heritage from the original series with the same name which were much-heralded in the 1930’s as being “the pen!”

Description: The Magna Classic is a seriously refined looking pen. The one I’m reviewing is the blue and gold edition which comes in highly polished, and I quote “high density”, blue acrylic which is complemented by gold-plated stirling silver fittings.

The first thing you notice about this pen is the quality packaging, very classy and comprehensive. The heavy-duty and embossed cardboard box gives way to an exquisite hinged blue swirl pen box which has a soft velvet base. The box is lined in cream with the certificate of authenticity residing in the underside of the lid.

The pen itself lies on an elegant velvet tray and included in the box are a variety of accessories including a cartridge converter a polishing cloth, some information regarding hallmarking and a couple of ink blotter cards which hark back to the heyday of the original Onoto brand.

Handle the pen and there are no disappointments. It comes in two weights, 25g and 32g, the one here is the 25g though I believe that both are visually identical.. The barrel of the pen is well finished and slightly tapers toward the base. It is inscribed with “Onoto the pen” with “made in England” underneath.

The cap is large and well adorned. It has three gold-plated silver rings near its base. The middle ring is larger than the outer pair and is hallmarked. The hallmarks note the make of the pen (OPC)) the quantity of silver per gram  (in milligrams) a sterling mark an assay mark and a date letter, (trust me they’re all there). The clip is a formidable,  23 carat gold-plated and emblazoned with the Onoto cipher. The end button is striking with again the gold-plated Onoto cipher in bold relief. The cap screws securely onto the barrel with little ado.

The section is black, tapered toward the nib with a slight lip at the end. It is somewhat drab in comparison to the rest of the ensemble but is functional enough. The nib is large, a number 7. These can come in either gold-plated steel as standard or 18k gold as an further optional upgrade.

Dimensions: The pen is 139mm (5.47″) long when capped and 122mm  (4.8″) uncapped. Posting the Magna Classic increases the overall length to a sizeable 161mm (6.34″). Thankfully the cap posts securely. the barrel diameter varies from 11-13mm (0.43-0.53″)

On Test: I’m grateful for the opportunity to review one of these classic looking pens. Although there are much more expensive models in the Onoto catalogue even this one will set a prospective buyer back somewhere in the region of £300 in the UK. That cost is without upgrading to the 18k gold nib and without any special nib grinding being requested.

The pen is extremely comfortable to hold, the barrel being wide enough to be reassuring. Not overly heavy it feels substantial enough to be comfortable in the hand with prolonged use.

This pen came with a fine two-tone gold-plated steel nib. While not being the finest of fines in terms of line width it is very smooth with which to write. The feed is well made giving the sense that it would be able to keep up with the fastest of handwriting. It certainly coped admirably with all the demands I placed upon it over the review period.

The pen is a cartridge converter type. A seemingly good quality converter accompanies the pen, this allows a certain ease of knowing that in extremis a couple of short international cartridges will keep the pen running.

Summary:  To my mind the question over this pen hovers over two issues. One is price. It is expensive (at least for me it would be). I have to admit it’s a lovely pen, in some senses more than lovely. It is a prestigious brand, it seems extremely well made, it comes with a lifetime guarantee. I was a tad disappointed that it didnt boast a more prestigious filler system. I know some of the other more expensive ones do, but this to me let the pen down a little. Nothing wrong with a cartridge converter system but nothing terribly special either, perhaps I’m being over fussy.

The second is issue is the writing experience. It is flawless, the pen writes like a dream but then I would expect it to for the money. It delivers a great writing experience but then so do much less expensive pens, that’s the wonder of the fountain pen hobby though isn’t it? Of course I can’t say whether it would be worth it to you, for I suppose that worth like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  I’d be interested with your experiences of this pen and brand. What say you?



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2 thoughts on “Best of British? A review of the Onoto Magna Classic fountain pen

  1. I have a couple of Onoto pens in my collection. They are nice large and competently made. But the clips have no spring in them a the pen will fall from my pocket at inconvenient moments. For a similar price I can have a nice Delta or OMAS with a smooth springy gold nib rather than the hard steel nib of the ONOTO. Yes they are / were well marketed but I think they were aimed at a declining audience. Stuffyly English and over priced even considering the Sterling silver fittings which age not well.

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