In this 4K video I review the Montblanc 14 fountain pen. This Montblanc has a unique hooded “butterfly” nib.
The 13X series of pens were the first Montblancs to feature a piston filling mechanism. The 136 was the senior size pen just as the 146 is today in the current Meisterstück line.
The 13X series was produced in the mid 1930s to the end of the 1940s and possibly into the early 1950s as there was a brief point when the 13X line and 14X were sold simultaneously.
There are several variations of the 136 which I won’t cover here other than to say that my version is a later model with the shorter ink window.
The differences between the 136 and the original 146 were mostly in design. The 146 had (and still has) a streamlined cigar shape where the 136 has more of a flat top.
They both had the same telescopic piston filling mechanism but if you look at the end of the barrel on a 136 you can see two knobs…the one at the very end is the regular piston filling knob you use to draw ink into the pen and the one below that is used to remove the actual piston filling mechanism…this makes repairs slightly easier.
I am quite fond of vintage Montblancs because they were very well made and have wonderful nibs. Unfortunately, these pens are expensive today, despite being mass produced. Montblanc is now very valuable luxury brand name and this has had an effect on the prices of their vintage pens.
Like most pens, the larger the size in a given series the more expensive the price and that is certainly the case here. The oversized 138 and 139 are the most valuable and the 132 is the least. A 136 in black celluloid can range from about $400-$1,000 depending on condition. Most will be in the $600-$800 range.
All piston filler Meisterstücks that I have owned are suitable for daily use; they are reliable workhorses. With the older celluloid models, however there are a couple of things to look out for: 1) The cork piston seal. If the cork dries out there will be no seal, meaning you won’t be able to draw up ink. The best thing you can do to prevent this is to use the pen regularly. Alternatively, you can store your pen with water but be advised this method is not foolproof 2) Celluloid shrinkage. Many old Meisterstücks suffer from this and sadly there is no cure. The good news is that this rarely causes functional problems. Shrinkage on the cap can cause the cap rings to come loose and you may see subtle dips and bulges on the body and cap. On my pen there is some shrinkage on the section. You can see a little bump in the middle of it.
My 136 is fitted with a beautiful OB nib.
This nib is very soft and is wonderful to write with. These nibs were hand made and most I have come across are very soft. I have seen some Meisterstücks with flex nibs but these are considered extremely rare and generally command a small fortune.
You can see that the 136 has a larger and more shapely nib compared to what is currently used on a modern 146.
The 136 has a flat “ski-slope” ebonite feed that provides a generous amount of ink to the nib.
You will notice that unlike modern Meisterstücks the cap band is English, not German, and reads “MONTBLANC MASTERPIECE”. This signifies that my 136 was an export model. There is some debate about whether pens with “MASTERPIECE” on the cap band are more or less common than those that read “MEISTERSTÜCK”. Based on what I have seen for sale on 13X and early 14X pens the cap bands in English are the most common.
The 136 weighs approximately 24 grams and measures 13cm long (or about 1.5cm shorter than the current 146). The 136 feels nice in hand and is a very comfortable size.
If you are looking for a vintage Montblanc I highly recommend a 136.
I have been collecting fountain pens for a little while now and have made a few poor purchases. My most expensive blunder has been this pen, a Montblanc 149 Meisterstück. (If you want just want to hear about the 149 as a pen skip down to the “Appearance” section.)
There is a well-regarded pen catalog (whose name I will not mention) and the best pens are purchased almost instantly upon release of the catalog so you don’t have much time to think.
The 1960s 149 that I had wanted sold before I had a chance so I jumped on the still available 1972 model and paid a hefty premium as it was new-old-stock.
The pen arrived in the original box with the original guarantee and with the sticker still on the pen. When I took off the cap and found that the nib was tarnished and the rhodium plate had disappeared in spots. The pen must have been dipped at one point and then put away uncleaned.
I contacted the catalog owner and to his credit he offered a few fair options: 1) lower the price, 2) re-plate the nib, or 3) refund my money. I foolishly became attached to the pen and decided to go for the lower price when I should have simply returned the pen. Oh well…
When I first saw a 149 in person years ago I thought it looked like a ridiculous cartoon pen; it is just so large. I have come around to liking the looks of it’s imposing size but if I am honest I would be embarrassed to use this pen at work…or around people in general.
The streamlined shape with black resin and gold furniture is a classic and this pen really is the archetype for a luxury fountain pen. The 149 is an icon much like a Rolex Submariner and as such there are many lookalikes.
The 149 has the best shape of any pen in the Meisterstück line. It is more cigar-like than the other Meisterstücks, which tend to have a longer and thinner profiles. There isn’t too much to say other than it’s a classic and a very attractive shape.
Montblanc has been producing the 149 since the late 1940s/early 1950s and there have been numerous iterations. The first models were the best quality and as such are the most valuable. So what about my early 1970s model? In my opinion, the Meisterstück line has gotten worse over time.
My 149 is made from plastic (“precious resin”) and has a plastic piston mechanism (not the metal telescopic one from the 50s and early 60s nor the metal one in the current 149). The barrel is a single piece of plastic compared to the modern two-piece barrel, which is cheaper to manufacture. The plastic is soft and scratches easily. Montblanc finishes the plastic with a very high shine so it is possible to polish out scratches if they are not too deep.
The tri-color nib is made of a soft 14ct gold with a solid ebonite feed instead of the plastic feed and stiffer 18kt tri-color nib on the modern 149. Montblanc produces all of their nibs in house and hand grinds and hand finishes each nib. If you look closely you will see that the slit between the tines doesn’t quite line up with the design.
One sore point on my pen is the plating on the nib. The rhodium (white metal) plating seems to have come off a bit. Which is something that shouldn’t really happen on a pen this expensive. I have confirmed through accounts of members of the Fountain Pen Network that this is not that uncommon for Montblanc pens.
Overall I would consider the build good but not great for a pen this expensive.
Size & Weight
One of the benefits of the plastic piston mechanism is that it keeps the weight down to 29.3 grams (empty). The 149 is the fattest pen I own and for me it is too fat to use comfortably for a longer period of time. See the picture below…
Even though this pen doesn’t have the biggest nib it clearly has the fattest section by a big margin.
The pen measures just under 15cm long and 1.6cm at it’s widest point. The grip section is about 1.3cm in diameter which is the most oversized measurement of the entire pen. You can post this pen but there really is no need to do so as it is a hair over 13cm long uncapped.
There are people with small hands and people large hands that love this pen so don’t assume that it wont work for you. If you want a 149 I highly suggest to you try before you buy. One of the major perks of owning a Montblanc is that there are many boutiques all over the world so they are easy to purchase and service. It is worth mentioning that pens serviced by Montblanc may be repaired with modern (often less desirable) parts.
The big OB nib is a great performer. The nib has long tines that make the nib soft and springy. The OB point is more round than the points on the older 1950s nibs. The rounder the nib the less line variation but the tradeoff is that nib is less position sensitive. Given the choice I much prefer the flatter nib.
The nib does allow for some line variation with pressure; it is much better than most modern pens in this regard.
One of the benefits of the 149 is the massive 2.7ml ink capacity. By comparison the average converter holds about 0.5ml of ink and the average piston filler holds about 1.0ml.
The piston is very smooth and the striped ink window is ultra clear and has remained easy to clean. One thing that I don’t care for is the amount of play in the piston knob once loosened; it hasn’t caused any problems but it doesn’t instill confidence.
If ink capacity is your top priority this may be the pen for you.
Used, these pens can be had for around $300-$400. The 1960s versions go for a bit more and the 1950s models are usually over $1,000. For $300 you get an impressive looking iconic pen that non-pen people will notice and appreciate; if that sort of thing is important to you, I can assure you wont do better for the money.
New, the 149 costs around $900 and for me there many other pens that I prefer in terms of quality and comfort but none can really match the imposing presence of the 149. If you want something with true snob appeal the $900 might be justifiable.
The 149 is fat….fat price, fat size, fat snob appeal.
Final Score 17/30
Here are some great reviews of the Montblanc 149:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)