Is it possible for a design to be modern, and retro at the same time? It’s rather difficult to strike a balance between these two, especially on an object as common as a writing instrument. The Pelikan m200 Café crème is a positive answer to this otherwise rhetorical question. Although I am uncertain on whether it is a welcome addition to the long series of variations of the iconic m200, and no matter what the current trends in design are, I think that a touch of tradition and especially classicism is interesting in its own right.
It is my understanding that this is a classic, timeless piece, dressed with a color scheme variation. This is what I gather when I browse the m200 collection. The pen is embellished with retro “luxury”tones by an ensemble of golden rims, but in a way that is not cheesy or disturbing. The colored parts on the two ends of the object exhibit these mild, earthy, hidden ruby tones. On the middle, one sees an almost ebony, “milky” body. This is normally how a typical café mélange would be served in a Viennese café.
This pen can be seen as an homage to the interwar period in a way that is not disturbing. It is not easy to pay an homage to this period without the blood-curdling events that darkened Europe’s pace in the 20th century. The only way to see this is to think of the interwar period as a continuation of the optimism of fin de siècle Vienna, the modernist tones in art and design, the futuristic movement in Central Europe and elsewhere, and the buoyant hopefulness that filled people’s minds in the advent of the globalised technological progress of the early 20th century.
Personally, it reminds me the countless melanges that I had at the Centrál Kávéház in Budapest, right on the Ferenciek tere, one of the many parts of the city center. Sitting in the wooden fauteuils, pulling out a notebook and taking notes on a history book, will be a nice opportunity to use this pen with an ink of your choice. After all, when one buys a writing instrument, one buys an experience rather than an object.
This pen joins the flock of Pelikans that I have in my collection. Albeit gold coated, the steel nib exhibits some feedback, and it takes some time to adjust to your handwriting. There is some significant line variation as well, which is always welcome. This is not the smoothest nib I have, nor the most expressive one. Nibs, after all, exhibit variations even across the same pen in the same display tray. It is performant, no doubt, and with its light weight and size when the cap is posted, it can be ideal for long writing sessions.
This was an impulse purchase. In retrospect, it is not a clever one. What renders this purchase an excessive one is the price/quality ratio, especially given the opportunities that this amount of money could have been invested on. The alternatives are abundant at this price tag, even for a 14k gold nib with a wonderful, smooth writing. In terms of design, the closest alternative is the Graf von Faber-Castell Intuition Ivory, which is traded at three to four times the price that you can pay for the Pelikan Café crème.
- Writers, who can use it to be immersed in the cultural atmosphere of Charles E. Schorske’s fin-de-siecle Vienna.
- People who would prefer to have coffee in a traditional coffee shop rather than another overpriced Starbucks-like joint with no identity whatsoever.
- Vienna lovers, who would sit in one of the many cafes in the capital of the Habsburg empire to read their newspaper in a wooden analog, in front of a melange.