A high-quality pen isn’t just an accessory, but rather it’s a foundational piece of the business wardrobe. And it holds a unique place as a gift that can actually be used for years to come. I still have and use a Mont Blanc fountain pen given to me by my sister for my college graduation and another stainless-steel model from Cross that was a thank you gift for serving as a groomsman in her wedding.
But with improvements in materials and transportation, there are more high-end pens available than ever before, with prices ranging from modest to astronomical. Many of these pens have some common traits that make them an investment piece, and while it’s possible to spend more on an heirloom-quality pen than a decent used car, there are also solid options that begin at just a few dollars. Here are some of our favorite high end pens across all prices.
We have a family joke that dates to the old television show M*A*S*H. The doctors are teasing the snobbish Major Charles Emerson Winchester the third about the amount of time it takes for him to complete some of the basic surgery tasks. Major Winchester replies, “I do one thing at a time. I do it extremely well. And then I move on.”
Major Winchester would be the type who understands that every gentleman (and every woman) needs the right tool for the job. And the right pen for many traditionalists like Major Winchester would be the Montblanc Meisterstück Gold-coated 149 Fountain Pen.
Instantly recognizable, this classic design blends a black lacquer body with hardware that is available in gold, rose gold or stainless steel. Pens like the Meisterstück are the hallmark of this company, which has expanded in recent years to manufacture high-end leather goods in Florence, Italy, and watches in Switzerland. With its ivory-colored inlay at the top of the pen cap, Montblanc’s trademark is instantly recognizable.
The 149 is a sturdy, wider chassis that is roughly the size of a small cigar. Still, fountain pens, once the standard for fine documents and calligraphy, can be messy and require intricate and regular cleaning and maintenance. Many people drawn to the legacy and reputation of the Montblanc brand opt for one of the more compact models, especially the bestselling Classique rollerball version, which uses a screw-on cap. But whether you choose a fountain, rollerball or fineline pen, the classic resin of the Montblanc pen is a stylish choice as an office accessory.
If you grew up watching those animated lessons on American history known as Schoolhouse Rock, then you learned that once a bill left Capitol Hill, the proposed legislation went to the President for either a veto or, more likely, the signature that turned it into law. And no other company’s pens have signed more pieces of legislation and executive orders than the pens of the A.T. Cross Company.
For over 175 years, Cross pens have been at the forefront of American business, and two models in particular have been the favorites of Presidents in the modern era. In fact, presidents of both parties have relied on Cross pens as souvenirs from official White House signing ceremonies.
Presidents Obama, Clinton and George W. Bush favored the pens of the Cross Townshend collection as their official tool for executive actions, while Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Trump and President Biden favor the Century II for ceremonial use at the White House. Our choice is the Century II in black lacquer with gold, a classic understated look that is the perfect business accessory for your power suit and tie combination.
Available in rollerball, fountain and felt tip editions, the Century II is available in both metallic and lacquer casings, but the black and gold combination is the traditional standard. It comes with a lifetime mechanical guarantee, and the ink cartridge is easily refillable, meaning you can switch from rollerball to felt tip should your needs change, all for about the cost of a drive-through burger combo.
And Cross stands behind their products with a warranty that is arguably the most generous of any consumer product: a lifetime warranty against mechanical failure, regardless of the age of the pen. Any writing instrument requiring service under this warranty will be repaired or replaced at no charge.
MORE BUDGET-CONSCIOUS MODERN CLASSICS
With pens like the classics above rising to the cost of a medium-sized mortgage payment, many people find themselves looking for more reasonable options that still offer the same sense of style and longevity.
Our top budget-conscious choices come from Lamy Pens, a German company that blends almost a century’s worth of experience with innovative materials and simple, clean designs that stand out.
Josef Lamy founded the company in 1930, although they did not call their products after their founder until the 1950s. But even then, Lamy’s focus was on reliability, as he drew on his experience working for other pen manufacturers to design pens that offered a reliable and uninterrupted flow of ink. His successor, Manfred Lamy, brought forth new pen designs influenced by European companies with strong aesthetics like Olivetti, manufacturers of stylish, low-profile typewriters in vibrant colors.
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Chief among those influential designs is Gerd Alfred Müller’s design for the 2000 pen, available in fountain, rollerball, multifunction (blue, black, red and green ink) and standard ballpoint models.
Muller made his name designing products for German appliance company Braun, but the 2000, made out of fiberglass and stainless steel, has been a bestseller since its introduction. And its matte finish and limited modernist color palette make it instantly recognizable whether it’s on the conference table or secure in your shirt pocket. It’s a piece of design history you can hold in your hand for around $60 in its rollerball version.
For the more design-conscious, or for those searching for business accessories with a splash of color, the Lamy Safari is the more obvious choice. Available in ten vibrant colors and featuring a clip resembling half a paperclip, the Safari has multiple grip choices with sensible ergonomic designs, including a left-handed option and a stainless steel nib designed for consistent ink flow.
But perhaps the most ubiquitous pen of all of our choices is also the most inexpensive. That honor would go to the Parker Jotter series, a standard ballpoint with a dart-pointed pocket clip that is immediately identifiable as a hallmark of 1950s modernism.
The metal Jotter pen is a highlight from the same era that brought us automobiles with tailfins and kitchen refrigerators with swooping curves and polished stainless steel handles.
An all-stainless version is available for less than $15, and Parker makes an identical mechanical pencil to form a nice budget-conscious set. Like most rollerball and ballpoint models, the Parker Jotter is designed to be refillable and is available in a wide array of colors, including some truly vibrant pastels.
Finally, those looking for a more compact body shape might consider the legendary Fisher Space Pen. Although it is nicknamed the Space Pen, the official name of the model is the AG7. This pen was originally used on the Apollo 7 mission in 1968 after two years of rigorous testing by NASA, and it has been used on all manned space flights since then. Its design remains unchanged in over 50 years, and the specifications today are the same as the pens that accompanied astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins on the first successful lunar landing in 1969.
Its pressurized and sealed ink cartridge means the Space Pen can write in zero gravity, zero pressure and underwater. At the same time, its body can also survive sterilization in an autoclave, making it a common choice in the surgical theater as well.
Put It In Ink
While the amateur novelist may not be able to tell the difference between a ballpoint and rollerball, we can. And so can the most sophisticated businessmen and women.
The right pen is not only available when you need it, but it is also a professional staple to your wardrobe and office. Thankfully, a high-end pen doesn’t have to be an investment, as demonstrated by our picks.
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Best High End Pens for Business:
- Montblanc Meisterstück Gold-coated 149 Fountain Pen
- Cross Company Century II
- Lamy 2000 Pen
- Lamy Safari
- Parker Jotter
- Fisher Space Pen