Mont Blanc pens are some of the most popular luxury pens in the world. They are known for their high-quality craftsmanship and for a wide range of available products. Yet, Mont Blanc isn’t the only brand known for premier stationery. Several other top brands bump shoulders with Mont Blanc at the top as they compete for the number-one spot.
Although Mont Blanc is renowned for its luxury pens, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to afford a quality fountain pen. Pilot, Sailor, and Waterman all offer quality fountain pens at a fraction of the price you’d pay for a Mont Blanc. You just have to know which models to buy.
In this guide, we’ll explain what makes Mont Blanc fountain pens so special and introduce a few top competitors that offer pens of similarly high quality. If you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line pen, give them a look and spend your money wisely.
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Why Mont Blanc Pens are So Renowned
Mont Blanc pens were first introduced in 1908 when the company’s founder, Claus-Johannes Voss, registered the trademark. Originally, the company only manufactured fountain pens, which were sold as luxury items, available only to the wealthy. The company then began producing ballpoint pens in the 1950s, and eventually became a household name.
Today, Mont Blanc pens are still considered to be some of the best writing instruments available and are popular among celebrities, business professionals, and everyday consumers.
Mont Blanc now makes a variety of different pens, including fountain, ballpoint, and rollerball pens.
Regardless of the style, though, any Mont Blanc pen is sure to be worth its weight in gold. Each pen is made from high-quality materials and is precision-crafted to ensure a smooth writing experience. Most pens come with a range of features, including:
- Golden nibs
- Other precious metals
Because of these high-price features, Mont Blanc pens can easily cost up to $10,000. The most expensive Mont Blanc Pens sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. These fancier varieties are often given as gifts to high-level executives and are sure to impress anyone who receives them.
Alternatives to Mont Blanc Pens
As we’ve pointed out, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to find a quality fountain pen. Although Mont Blanc pens are arguably the best in the world, there are plenty of other top-tier manufacturers making precision stationery. We recommend looking into the following brands to save a bit of money.
Pilot Pen – Top-Tier Fountain Pens for Beginners
If you’re new to fountain pens, we highly recommend checking out Pilot Pen.
Pilot pens are some of the most popular pens on the market, and for good reason. They’re affordable, reliable, and come in a variety of styles and colors. Plus, Pilot makes some of the best entry-level fountain pens on the market.
Pilot Pen was first founded in 1918 by Ryosuke Namiki with Masao Wada to produce the Namiki Fountain Pen. By the 1920s, the company had branched out and began producing pens for use in airplanes. In the 1930s, Pilot then started producing ink pens and, by the 1950s, Pilot was exporting pens to the United States. They opened their first manufacturing plant in the U.S. in 1972.
Pilot currently manufactures one of the highest-rated fountain pens under $50—the Metropolitan. This pen has a sleek, modern design made entirely of brass, helping to solidify its place as a presentable, high-class fountain pen. In hand, it has considerable weight, unlike a cheaper plastic pen, yet it’s still wieldable enough to write in comfort.
It features a medium steel nib that creates a glossy, smooth texture as you write. Its lines are clear and bold, with very little feathering or splatter. The pen comes in black, silver, and gold varieties, and can be reloaded with any ink of your choosing.
Overall, the Pilot Metropolitan is an excellent gift for anyone wanting to explore fountain pens without spending a fortune for a Mont Blanc.
- Pilot's sleek Metropolitan Collection signature pens
- Finest quality at a mid-range price
- Medium nib
- Brass barrel with stainless accents
- POWER TO THE PEN: Pilot makes exceptional writing instruments to suit all your needs. We have fountain, ballpoint,...
Sailor Pen Company – Luxury Within the Budget
If you have some experience writing with a fountain pen, you may want something more exciting than an entry-level Pilot Metropolitan.
Sailor fountain pens are considered some of the finest in the world and often rank just as highly as Mont Blanc. While still slightly pricey, your average Sailor fountain pen costs well below the $500-mark you’d pay for the cheapest Mont Blanc.
The Sailor fountain pen company was founded in 1911 by Kyugoro Sakata and Takeo Terakado in Hiroshima, Japan. It is currently a subsidiary of the Pilot Corporation but exists as a separate luxury brand. Sailor pens are considered some of the finest writing instruments in the world and are favored by collectors and everyday users alike.
Some of the most popular Sailor fountain pens include the 1911, 1911L, ProGear, and 1911S.
Their standard-issue 1911 is constructed from brass and has a 14k gold nib. Compared to other brands, Sailor fountain pens are fairly average in size and comfortable in hand. Both the top and base of the pen are rounded to create a subtle, sleek appearance.
The 1911 features a screw-on cap that keeps the pen and nib completely safe no matter where you put it. The cap also features a clip should you ever wish to hang it in a shirt pocket. Being that it’s a Japanese pen, the nib is slightly finer than a Western nib, meaning your lines will come out thinner than you might expect.
Additionally, Sailor fountain pens are famous for slight scratchy feedback while you write. This is to be expected and some believe that the company purposefully constructs its nibs to produce this effect as a sort of signature. Be warned that it can take some getting used to and isn’t the most forgiving while you write. For this reason, we recommend the Sailor 1911 for experienced fountain pen users.
- 1911 Standard Black GT 14K Gold Medium Point Fountain Pen
- Fountain Pen Medium Point
Compared to a $500 Mont Blanc, a Sailor 1911 will set you back around $150, but this includes a beautifully engraved 14K gold nib. All-in-all, we think it’s well worth the materials and the name.
Waterman is one of the oldest fountain pen companies in the world, and their products are commonly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.
The company was first founded in 1884 by Lewis Edson Waterman, a successful businessman from New York, as the first company mass-producing fountain pens. Within just a few years, their pens quickly became popular among the local elite who needed a reliable pen for everyday use.
Waterman continued to innovate throughout the early 20th century, and they introduced several iconic fountain pen designs, including the Ladybug, the Ideal, and the Hemisphere. Today, Waterman is one of the most respected fountain pen brands in the world, and their pens are prized by fountain pen fanatics around the world.
Considering that Waterman is the oldest company to mass-produce fountain pens, you’d expect all of their products to be unattainably expensive. Yet Waterman produces a wide range of fountain pens, ranging from entry-level models to high-end, limited-edition pens. Their entry-level pens are typically priced under $100, while their high-end pens can cost several thousand dollars.
If you’re new to fountain pens, we recommend the Waterman Graduate Chrome. At just $19.95, it’s one of Waterman’s least expensive models yet still looks like a professional pen. The exterior is cast in sleek chrome and comes with a fine steel nib that’s smooth enough for even a novice to use. It comes with a Waterman cartridge and can be converted to use bottled ink.
- Choose from a range of sophisticated barrel colours
- Engraved durable steel nib for consistent everyday writing
- Comes equipped with vivid erasable blue ink
- Refillable with short or long Waterman ink cartridges
- Perfect for students and professionals; Presented in a Waterman gift box
If you’re more experienced with fountain pens, the Waterman Expert Black is a real classic. We did a whole review on the Expert (Rollerball) which you can read here.
This pen would look great on your desk and is a top choice if you are looking for a fountain pen that is both elegant and modern. The Expert Black is available in both a cartridge and converter model, and you can buy the pen with either a steel or gold nib.
- Generous silhouette for premium, executive styling and supreme comfort when writing
- Sophisticated gloss black lacquered body, gleaming 23-karat golden trim and clip, and broad ring embellished with the...
- Smooth, consistent, skilfully constructed stainless steel and 23-karat gold nib engraved with the iconic Waterman emblem
- Meticulously crafted in France to enhance your signature style
- Presented in a premium dark blue Waterman gift box; ideal for celebrating graduations, promotions and new jobs
What to Look for When Purchasing Fountain Pens
Now that you know a few of Mont Blanc’s leading competitors, feel free to shop around for a quality fountain pen. Before you go, though, take a moment to read about the main selling points to look for as you buy. We recommend comparing a few options before settling on a final purchase to guarantee that your pen is right for you.
Fountain pens use a variety of filling systems to hold the ink. The most common are cartridge, converter, and piston filling systems. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll go into here:
- Cartridge Systems – Cartridges are the easiest type of filling system to use. They are simply inserted into the pen and then removed when they are empty. The main disadvantage of cartridges is that they cannot be refilled, so you must buy new ones once they run out of ink.
- Converter Systems – Converters are similar to cartridges, but they can be refilled with ink from a bottle. This makes them more economical in the long run, but they can be a bit tricky to use at first.
- Piston Systems – Piston filling systems are the most complex type of fountain pen filling system. They use a piston to draw ink up from an ink bottle and into the pen. Piston fillers typically have a larger capacity than other types of fountain pens, so they can hold more ink.
Piston filling fountain pens are almost universally more expensive than cartridge systems but they generally last longer and are less prone to leakage. If you’re new to fountain pens, we recommend starting with a cartridge system and then graduating to a piston system once you’ve mastered your writing style.
Fountain pen nibs come in a variety of sizes, from the very fine to the extra-broad. Most entry-level fountain pens come with a fine or medium-sized nib to help you master your writing technique. The size that is right for you will depend on your own personal preferences and writing style.
- Extra-Fine (EF) – These nibs are ideal for those who prefer a very fine line. They are also good for those who have small handwriting or need to write in cramped spaces.
- Fine (F) – Fine nibs are a good all-purpose choice. They produce a slightly wider line than extra-fine nibs, but not so wide that it becomes difficult to control.
- Medium (M) – Medium nibs are perfect for those who want a bolder, more noticeable line. They can also be used for calligraphy and other decorative writing styles.
- Broad (B) – Broad nibs produce an even wider line than medium nibs. They are best suited for those who have large handwriting or need to make their writing stand out from the page.
As you become more comfortable using a fountain pen, don’t be afraid to switch out your nibs and practice with different sizes. You’ll find that some styles produce better handwriting and line drawings.
Cap and Body Materials
Metal pens are typically made from stainless steel, brass, or aluminum. They are durable and have a heftier feel than plastic or wood pens. Metal pens can also be engraved with personal messages or initials for a more personalized touch. However, metal pens may corrode over time if not properly maintained and can be difficult to clean if the ink dries inside the nib housing.
Plastic is the lightest material used in fountain pen construction and is often used in less expensive models. Plastic pens are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns to suit any taste. Some plastics may yellow over time due to exposure to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light. In addition, some plastics may become brittle with age and can crack or break if dropped.
Wooden pens can be finished with lacquer or varnish to protect the surface and provide a lustrous shine. Like metal pens, wood pens can also be engraved with personal messages or initials for a more customized look. However, wood is susceptible to warping if exposed to excessive heat or moisture so it is important to store your wood pen in a cool, dry place when not in use.
Choose according to your budget and needs to find a quality pen that will last a lifetime.
Mont Blanc may be one of the most iconic names in the fountain pen industry but they’re not the only luxury brand. We highly recommend checking out Pilot, Sailor, and Watermen pens if you’re in the market for a top-tier writing utensil. They all make affordable stationeries for all skill levels. Just be sure to shop around and buy according to your needs.