Review: The Lamy 2000 Fountain Pen
Being a mere fountain pen acolyte, it's my understanding that part of what led to their resurgence during the 80's and 90's (having been driven underground for several decades by the convenience of the ball-point pen) was their potential bling factor. Well-to-do business people would stuff a $1500+ Mont Blanc pen in their Armani pockets in place of the passé hankerchief and people couldn't help but ooh and ahh at the amount of money that was undoubtedly paid for such a fashionable accroutrement. They were, in effect, jewelry, meant to be displayed but very rarely used.
True, there are a lot of beautiful pens out there, many costing several thousand dollars in special "limited editions" (of course they're limited -- how many $15,000 pens could you realistically expect to sell?), but they remain out of reach for us mere mortals who actually know the contents of their bank accounts. Not to worry, though: more than one fountain pen savant has whispered the industry's little secret to me. Up to $150, you pay for the nib; more, you pay for the sparkle. So, assuming you're not looking for something ostentatious, just a nice reliable daily writer that will last for many years, you're in luck. There's plenty of options that won't require an extra mortgage, ranging from the $25 Lamy Safari and the $40 Waterman Phileas up to the $150 pens from well-regarded manufacturers.
Case in point, the well-regarded bastion of functional anti-bling: the Lamy 2000.
Created for Heidelberg's Lamy pen company by the Bauhaus designer Gerd A. Müller in the early sixties, the Lamy 2000 has survived more than four decades with nary a hint of change. In its design simplicity, it's much like the elegance of the iPod, where so much careful thought has gone into how the object can integrate into a person's lifestyle without needless intrusion. In point of fact, it follows the Bauhaus school's leading precept of function dictating form so perfectly that it's considered by many to be the epitome of Bauhaus design. In 1966, the Lamy 2000 model firmly set Lamy at the forefront of industrial design for writing instruments and its influence can still be felt to this day.
Visually, the pen is about as unostentatious as possible. The barrel and cap are possessed of a simple curvature and built of a jet-age matte black fibreglass resin called Makrolon. The section (the part near the nib where you grip for writing) is brushed metal. The nib is a "hooded" one, which means that most of it is covered by the section, leaving only a little triangle of shiny metal protruding for the act of writing. The nib is actually made of gold, necessary for its non-rigid qualities, but is plated with platinum to ensure a consistent "black and steel" look to the pen. The clip is squarish and also made of brushed metal, possessing only a tiny engraved "Lamy" on its side, the only visible writing on the pen. (There's hidden writing beneath the clip that few people know to look for.) A simple silvery dot marks the bottom, and the very top of the cap is the only shiny black on the whole pen. It all sounds incredibly simple, but it's truly beautiful in that simplicity. And so absolutely exact is its manufacture that even the piston cap at the bottom of the pen is almost completely undetectable until you rotate it.
Speaking of pistons, the pen is a piston filler, so it doesn't take the cartridges that many people are familiar with. To fill, simply dip the nib into an ink bottle, then unscrew and screw back the piston cap. Wipe the nib and you're all set. There is a beautifully integrated and subtle wrap-around "window" about one-third the way back from the nib so you can see when you're running out of ink.
So, how does it write? I have the fine nib, and that was my first and only concern. The fine nib is actually more of a medium when compared with most other western pens,including Lamy's own AL Star and Safari series. I much prefer a fine nib, which makes me think I should have opted for the extra-fine nib in this case.
That said, the pen writes incredibly smooth on almost all the types of paper I've tried it on, from expensive vellum to used copy paper, from Moleskines to index cards. It lays down a solid wet line that is not so wet as to badly feather even my cheap index cards. Part of that may be my choice of inks (thus far Lamy black and Noodler's Polar Black), but many other pens I've tried with the same inks have not fared so well. Bleed through the paper is fairly minimal, especially given the thickness of the line. Used with my Moleskine, there's only a few points where it actually appears as a small dot or two on the other side of the page.
While the nib wouldn't be considered a flexible one by any means, there's still enough flex that slight pressure and speed can add character to one's writing. That little bit of flex might also lead to a bit of nib creep (ink spreading slightly over the nib), depending on the ink used.
Fatigue is also an issue with many fountain pens, but thankfully the Lamy 2000 is rather ergonomic and easy to hold for extended periods of time, due to the slight cigar-shaped barrel and the non-slippery materials of its construction. While not exactly light-weight, it's not very heavy at all, and doesn't pose a problem for me during long writing sessions.
Doing my research, I found very few negative reviews of this pen, which is astonishing given its 40+ year history. The only negative comments seem to echo my experience, that the nibs seem one size too large. Some people have also commented on the "ears," which begs a bit of explanation. The cap isn't a threaded one, which means that it can come off in a hurry if need be. But to do that, Lamy decided to place two very tiny metal "tabs" on the barrel. The cap pushes over these and locks with a satisfying click. Some people have complained that they feel awkward, but frankly I don't notice them. If anything, they serve as a slight reminder of how I should hold the pen, with the pad of my forefinger atop one. Some people do find them a minor irritation, though.
The price falls under the magic $150 mark by a mere dollar. However, if you're quick, you can still catch one today at ISellPens.com for under a hundred (today being December 3, 2007), which is an incredible deal. (If you miss it, the pen can also be found on eBay for around a hundred.) For that price you're getting the finest in functional German design, and a high-quality --but not gaudy-- pen that will last many, many years. Just make sure it's the type of subtle beauty you can truly appreciate.