Many times we who enjoy fountain pens choose the pens we use for their quirkiness: for the one distinctive characteristic that makes that one pen unique. Sometimes it is form, not function. Sometimes it is function, not form. Likewise with motorcycles. Honda motorcycles are perfect in form, function, performance, style. But sometimes they are too perfect, bordering on dull. So we who so appreciate and enjoy motorcycles get away from the flock and choose Yamahas, Ducatis, Moto Guzzis, Harleys, Indians. All of these are excellently made, but many of their models are unique in that they have some quirkiness, some distinguishing trait that the user has to grow up to. And they are absolutely not dull.
I have written about the Faber-Castell Emotion, and I really like that pen. But I’ll concede that it is heavy, fat and strangely shaped, but with a nib that is a dream come true. So, although it is one of the best pens around, and extremely pretty and original, it is far from normal. Not a Honda – an MV Agusta, perhaps, for those who are into bikes to understand. Not a Mercedes, but a Lamborghini, for those into cars.
Now, moving back to pens, a brand that is instantly recognized for its excellence, its businesslike looks and its classic beauty, is Cross. Moreover, Cross Century Classic pens represent the epitome of the jet airplane era. Sleek, chrome plated, with a lifetime warranty, nearly indestructible, with a perfect mid-twentieth-century timeless design. Those pens are excellent writers and have high-quality refills (I have one particular ballpoint that has been sitting for decades, and still writes flawlessly when I happen to pick it up), and are immediately recognized as the great pens they are. So if you own one, beware: they are objects of desire and may be snatched if you do not pay close attention to them.
True, Cross has undergone many changes – it has changed hands and places of manufacture, business strategies and design and marketing methods. Some may feel that many of the new models are overpriced or not very good. But the Cross Century Classic, Cross Century II and Cross Townsend lines are still what they always were: very pretty, very classic, very businesslike and very sturdy, durable, well balanced and, in a word, perfect. Like Mercedes. Like Honda. Like my Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, that has been in continuous production since the mid sixties.
But, in this case (as with my Electra Glide), classic and perfect do not mean dull. Cross fountain pens have been so sneered by the pen community that they have become outsiders, and therefore quirky pens. So it is with pride that we can go back to them.
The pen in case is my Cross Century II fountain pen, bought in a sale at the Riviera duty free shop at Panama City Tocumen airport. As they are phasing out Cross pens in favor of luxury pen brands, I could get this pen for less than half the original price. But after beginning to use it, I cannot put it down. My take is that it is worth every penny of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), and now that I know that, I would gladly have paid full price for a pen like that.
Mine is a chrome model with a steel nib, but instead of the vertical etched lines it has a diagonal parquet-like pattern etched upon the body.
I cannot tell what that finish is called, but it certainly adds some rarity and uniqueness to that little pen of mine.
Since when I inked up the pen (it came with a medium nib and no converter, so I had to get a Cross yellow converter elsewhere), I have been unable to put it down. It belongs in my daily carry, and I use it as often as possible. It is a very smooth and very wet writer with just the perfect hint of feedback. I use it with Lamy Blue Black ink, which is a perfect match for this pen. Because it is a wet writer, you should avoid low quality paper with this pen. And thin paper, like that of Moleskine notebooks, is definitely a no-no for any fountain pen, but particularly for such a wet writer as this.
Although the pen is thicker than the Century Classic, it is still one of the thinnest pens I have. A little thicker than a Bic ballpoint, and just right for long writing sessions. The cap posts perfectly and very positively. As it is very light, it adds length, but does not change the perfect balance of the pen. And it shuts and seals the pen perfectly, so that even after days without use the nib will be wet and start writing immediately.
I find no flaws with this pen. The grip section is plastic, with grooves that make it easy to grip, and there is no question of having your fingers slip even if you have sweaty hands. Moreover, the grip section diameter is the same as that of the body, so there is no uncomfortable step between grip section and body (as I tend to hold my pens high up, I find that step very annoying, for instance in the Pilot Metropolitan, which is, otherwise, a very good pen).
The cartridges are proprietary Cross cartridges. Because they are not readily available everywhere and have a very restricted choice of colors (blue, black and blue black only), I strongly recommend using the Cross converter that fits this pen (the yellow one). The converter screws firmly into the section, and no amount of shaking will take it off and make a mess. Cross has two models of converters – the yellow one, and the green one, that fits the Cross Townsend and Aventura, but will not fit this pen.
The Cross Classic II fountain pen lies in a size and price range between the very thin Cross Classic Century and the heavier and thicker (and more expensive) Cross Townsend. There are currently six models of the Century II fountain pen: lustrous chrome, classic black, royal blue and medalist with steel nibs; and 10K rolled gold and sterling silver with gold nibs, ranging from US$ 115.00 to US$ 335.00 (MSRP).
The Cross Century II fountain pen, my daily writer of choice, a very practical pen, is available online from many sources. In Brazil, it is distributed by Victorinox. But you may find it better to have a first hand experience with this pen and support your local dealer. In Rio de Janeiro, you may get Cross pens (and many others) from reputable sellers such as Papelaria México (at Rua México, 168B, Centro); A Caneta Royal, a very pretty pen store downtown (Rua México, 158 Lj C, Centro), where Mr. Ralph will share his lifetime experience of pens with you and offer you his rich selection of very classy fountain pens, making it hard to drop by and not buy anything; and, of course, at Perito dos Cachimbos (new and used models there), where Edson and Marcelo will tell you a lot about pens and pipes and offer very good deals in Cross pens.