Rome. One of my favourite places. For many reasons that are obvious and in line with the city’s reputation. One particular reason that strikes a note with me is the pen shops. Maybe that memory is a little romanticised. The thought of a fantastic lunch, followed by a stroll through some ancient laneways and stumbling across a hidden fountain pen treasure trove. It’s not so much that the stores carry a wider or more diverse range than in other parts, it’s more that the stores are wonderfully preserved examples of a departed era. Wood paneling, leather, marble and so on. Anyways…always seems much nicer than the usual trip to a department store pen section.
So it was that I discovered one of the most prized pieces of my collection. A Delta Titanio. It was, as they say, love at first sight. I’m looking at it now, many years later and it still inspires joy. An elegance arrived at by simplicity in design, excellent workmanship and beautiful raw materials. (A bit like Italian cuisine, really). As the name suggests, the Titanio features the use of titanium for its nib and some of the hardware on the barrel and cap. Perhaps my only criticism of the pen is that Delta did not go the whole 9 and appear not to have used titanium for the clip. My disappointment, though, is partly compensated for by the fact that the spring mechanism in the clip is a sheer delight. Beautifully weighted with a sweet action. I also love the way the clip marries with the lid in a kind of cantilever movement. It sets off the overall aesthetic nicely. If only it was titanium… Though I suspect the cost of machining and implementing a titanium spring clip would have added considerably to its retail purchase price (and very likely taken it outside my scope of affordability).
Anyway, titanium. If you know me, you know I have a thing for titanium. And carbon fibre. And ceramic. I am, at heart, an “exotic” material slut. Tell me something is made of titanium and you instantly have my complete and utter attention (not to mention the immediate desire to acquire it). It’s a bit of a problem, but then I suppose we all have our vices.
So, you see, for me, the Titanio was no ordinary (but very nice) black resin fountain pen. It was FREAKING TITANIUM. And very nice titanium too. The nib is like butter. I know some people have described it as a bit soft; mushy even. But I disagree. Wholeheartedly. For me it’s like writing on a cloud. I love the flex the titanium gives it; but more so the confidence that the strength of titanium imbues in that flex.
It is, as you may have surmised by now, a pen that is very close to my heart. So it was with some sadness that I learned recently that Delta pens had ceased operations a year or two ago. I had just discovered the very excellent pen blog The Gentleman Stationer (it’s an excellent blog and I commend it to you) and was reading his Best Pens recommendations. A pen brand I had not heard of caught my eye – Leonardo Officina Italiana. I learned that Leonardo Officina “emerged out of the ruins of the Italian pen company Delta after it shut down a couple of years ago”. Saddened but curious, I set about exploring more Leonardo Officine Italiana. The fact that one of their models had landed at number 2  on The Gentleman Stationer’s list of favourite fountain pens was reason enough, but the Delta connection was compelling.
I focused on the Momento Zero. From the picures I saw on the web, I was instantly attracted to the patterning on the resin and the overall look of the pen. I must confess that it was another but decidedly less romantic feature of the pen that tipped me over the edge. It’s price. At 120 euros on Casa della Stilographica (stilografica.it), it just seemed like great value. And even though I generally steer away from steel nibs these days, enough reviewers had heaped praise on the Zero’s steel nib for me to give it the benefit of the doubt.
It was my first purchase from Casa della Stilographica. Their service is first rate and although they only offer the most expensive shipping option to my home destination in Hong Kong, the pen arrived in a day or two. So at least I felt my 45 euro shipping fee was not wasted.
What of the Momento Zero? Well, I am happy to say its place on TGS’s ranking is well deserved. It is a revelation. In all aspects I was mightily impressed. The resin is superb as is the workmanship in the barrel and the cap. The nib, though plainly adorned, is the real star of the show. Certainly not because of the way it looks or the materials from which it is made, but rather the way it writes. Which is nothing short of incredible. For a bog standard steel nib to write the way it does is, IMHO, a genuinely marvellous achievement. It doesn’t have the buttery-ness of its Titanio cousin; but what it lacks in butter it more than makes up for in sheer writing pleasure. I have been using the Momento Zero as my daily driver for the past month or two and I have enjoyed every minute.
Of course it doesn’t hurt that the pen is very well weighted and that the stepped and sloping nature of the grip is very suited to my hand and writing style. It’s a pen that, at its price point, represents a very rare combination of both form and function.
Niggles? There are one or two. Nothing is perfect after all… I am not a huge fan of the clip. (What is it with me and clips?!) I get that at this price point compromises need to be made and for what it’s worth, I can’t say that the clip is ghastly. It just lacks something. And I find the small vertical disc at the end of the pin to be a bit too much of a finnicky design element for my liking. YMMV. At least it is not flimsy and I can say that it appears to be really well constructed.
The other con for mine is the engraving on the barrel. Ordinarily I’m very keen on it. The Titanio, for instance, has an in-laid white inscription on the cap which I enjoy very much. It takes the pen to another level for me. So after reading this very good review of the Momento Zero on The Pen Addict which showed the barrel inscription in detail, I was excited to see what it was like in real life. Well, sadly, I was disappointed. Not enough to mar my overall impression of the pen, but disappointed nonetheless. The engraving work is simply barely noticeable to the naked eye. You can see it under bright light, but for me, that’s not quite enough. It’s nice engraving and even more to my liking, it contains your individual pen number. Mine is 5369. Love that!
My point here is if you are going to go to the trouble of inscribing each pen with its unique production number, do it in such a way that it is, at least, visible. All is, however, not lost. In the Bullfinch tradition – there is a bricolage workaround. This idea comes from the craftsman who made my wedding ring. It has some lines of hand-tooled engraving which appear to have a black inlay. The truth is otherwise. When I collected the ring he told me “When the black wears out, take a Sharpie, run it over the engraving and then rub the ring with a Scotch pad to remove the Sharpie ink from the ring but not the engraving.” It works a treat and turns out the same trick can be accomplished with the engraving on the Momento Zero. You can have any colour you like! But I do advise caution, you need to be very careful otherwise you’ll scratch the barrel. So far I have not been brave (silly?) enough to use a Scotch pad…
But if you’re like me (if so, God save you) and you’d like to admire the very fine engraving on your Momento Zero, give this technique a try.
- Incidentally, his number 1 favourite pen is a favourite of mine too – the Lamy 2000. More on that in another article. It’s a pen whose design I think is unique and endearing. In use however I have had no end of problems with it. Keep an eye out for more on my Lamy 2000 saga… ↩