The best fountain pens are a necessary luxury for those who love writing. In a world of texts and the constant deluge of emails, putting pen to paper is a joy, writes Alexandra Henton.


The best fountain pens are a hand held luxury and are a gift for life. When the post arrives it’s always the hand-written envelopes we reach for first. (Read our love letter to postage stamps.)

Finding the best fountain pens

The best way to find the pen for you is to visit somewhere such as Selfridges, where you can sit down and try various models, nibs and experience different weights. It is essential to try a pen before you buy one but there is a fountain pen for everyone.


Montblanc doesn’t sell pens but lifelong companions. “No one buys one of our writing instruments because they need something to write with,” says Christian Rauch, managing director of writing culture and leather. “A Montblanc is an expression of a cultivated lifestyle. It is for signatures on important documents, thank-you notes or letters,”. (Read the Field’s guide to luxury stationery.)

Best fountain pens. The Montblanc Meisterstück can be found in the draws of the finest desks.

The Montblanc Meisterstück can be found in the drawers of the finest desks.


The classic Meisterstück 149 entirely hand-crafted on site in Hamburg, is made to bequeath.  “I still write with the Meisterstück my parents gave me on graduation,” says Rauch, “although I test all our new products.” There are nine Montblanc nibs, but you can visit the factory, have your handwriting computer-analysed and a bespoke nib made to your requirements. If you covet something even more rarified, then a limited-edition Montblanc can run to €100,000.

Montblanc has also made a pen for gunmakers Purdey. The Meisterstück Fountain Pen is made of walnut with engraved Purdey chequering and metal inlay and features an 18K gold nib and ruthenium-coated fittings.


Caran d’Ache

“We are proud that everything is developed in our workshop in Geneva,” says Frank Barelle of Caran d’Ache. The Swiss manufacturer’s standard range incorporates noble materials, precious metals and carbon fibre in the design. Nibs come in eight widths. The company was the first to introduce coloured lacquer on its pens. (You might like to read The Field’s guide to repairing vintage fountain pens.)

“The best fountain pens show what we call a certain ‘savoir vivre’,” says Barelle. “The art of good manners is to write with a fountain pen.”



Fountain pens in Britain

The British fountain-pen market is thriving. Tim Tufnell is the third generation in the family business Yard-O-Led, specialising in best fountain pens and pencils that are all individually hand-crafted and hallmarked.


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The British fountain pen market is thriving. Yard-O-Led is a third generation family business. The wonderfully florid Yard-O-Led Viceroy Grand Victorian.

The British fountain pen market is thriving. Yard-O-Led is a third generation family business. Above, the wonderfully florid Yard-O-Led Viceroy Grand Victorian.

Fountain pens come in fine, medium and broad nibs and offer a pleasing element of tradition for the writing enthusiast. “There are very few businesses left in Britain which are as reliant as we are on the skill of craftsmen. Certainly, no other fountain pen manufacturer does nearly as much as us by hand. For example, it takes eight separate processes just to make a fountain pen’s clip,” Tufnell says.

The best fountain pen ever made?

Best fountain pens.

Onoto Magna in silver, The Onoto Magna is considered by many as the best pen ever made.

The Onoto pen company had been mothballed in 1958 until James Boddy and Alastair Adams bought it in 2005. “James had a dream of creating a set of pens to celebrate Admiral Nelson but couldn’t find a pen manufacturer interested. A chance meeting led him to track down Onoto and buy the company,” says Adams. All Onoto fountain pens are made in the UK, either in Petworth or Tewkesbury. Two or three new models are released per year. The Onoto Magna plunger filler is the company’s most famous fountain pen, “considered by many as the best fountain pen ever made,” says Adams.

Best fountain pens. The initmitable Magna from Onoto. Top drawer.

The Magna from Onoto.

The 1937 design is timeless and covetable, with the Onoto name engraved on the barrel. It has been revived, from original drawings, in black acrylic with 23ct gold fittings.  “Everyone has a Montblanc, so for people who want something even better, from a British maker, buy an Onoto,” says Adams.

Retro styling

“Our flagship model is the Churchill  based upon a design used by Sir Winston Churchill in the Twenties,” says British fountain pen company Conway Stewart.

Best fountain pens. Highly covetable. The Belliver from Conway Stewart will fit most hands.

Highly covetable. The Belliver from Conway Stewart will fit most hands.

A classical-style, oversize fountain pen, it can come with a lever filling mechanism. The Belliver will fit most hand sizes and is sure to add flair to letters, and the distinctive, limited-edition Kipling has words from If and The Elephant’s Child on cap and barrel. “We pride ourselves on using the best materials. Some of our limited editions still use casein [a form of resin created from milk proteins in the late 19th century] and regular editions use more practical acrylic resins,” the company claims. Conway Stewart nibs allow anything from spider-web-thin script to an extravagant flourish, with three sizes of italic nib, too.

The trusty Parker

The Parker Duofold has been in production since 1921. The recent incarnation, the Duofold International Pearl and Black Gold Trim  is pure Parker in its simplicity and usability. The contemporary monochrome  in rose gold would make a fitting tool to tackle piles of thank-you letters, while the vintage Parker 51 is one of the most covetable collector’s models.

Best fountain pens. The Parker Pearl and Black. It's hard to beat a Parker, and the company continue reinventing and modernising, while keeping older models in production too.

The Parker Pearl and Black (above). It’s hard to beat a Parker, and the company continue reinventing and modernising, while keeping older models in production too.



The fountain pen may have fallen out of favour but the revival is well underway. If one is going to write make sure it is with distinction using the most elegant instrument for the job. And, of course, a beautifully hued ink. One can flirt, fawn or fantasise on paper, but it is always done best with a fountain pen.

A word of inks

An added charm of using a fountain pen today must be the variety of coloured ink available. (Read how to make a quill pen.)

While many brands stipulate that you must use their eponymous ink only, most inks available on the market are of a similar quality. However be cautious when using coloured ink in an old pen as the dyes can be corrosive. Never leave coloured ink in the pen and flush it regularly with cold water to prolong the life of the rubber sacs.

A nib, even an old one with dried ink that hasn’t been used for years, can be soaked in cold water overnight, repeated two or three times, to rejuvenate it.

Onoto 80ml Ink £12
Various colours available

Find out more

This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated.

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