I have to admit, I've been a bit reluctant to review the Pilot M90 fountain pen. As it is a discontinued model it kind of stands really close to that line of "is it fair to review if people can't find them?" Personally, I think it is ok (hence the review) as it helps to spread awareness of older models that may intrigue people to dig a bit deeper on their own. This is what lead me down an unhealthy path to the rOtring 600s and vintage Pilot pens... consider yourself warned!
That being said, head into this review with two disclaimers: these pens can be difficult to find and, if you find one, expect to drop some money on one. We're talking Montblanc kind of money... (although I don't own a Montblanc; another discussion) and may not be realistic for everyone to delve into.
The history of the M90 actually takes us back to 1971 when Pilot released a pen called the MYU 701. We'll consider the MYU 701 to be the M90's dad or older brother...
The MYU is a stunning work of art. The nib is made from a single piece of steel that extends to a point which consists of both the grip and nib. This is referred to as an integral nib meaning the section and nib share the same material.
Sadly, Pilot discontinued this line of pens back in the 1970's. Why? I don't know. Cost, demand, economy... who knows?
For Pilot's 90th birthday in 2008 they decided to produce a pen that was very similar to the MYU 701 and called it the M90. Made to look almost identical (although with some slight modifications and upgrades), the M90 shares the same iconic integral nib made from stainless steel which is a total stunner. Futuristic, modern; nothing really touches it in comparison.
Sadly, Pilot only made 9,000 of these units (with a relatively small number coming to the USA) which now makes them sold only on the secondary market where I purchased mine.
I was really nervous about this pen as it was pricey. Full transparency, I think when I purchased mine it ran me close to $400. Gulp. In seeing the resale value staying pretty consistent on them, I figured that if for some reason I didn't completely fall for it that I could pass it on to another collector. At the point I purchased it, the M90 was by about double the most expensive pen I'd bought. I've seen them now (in less than a year) ranging still from around $450 all the way up to people asking $700+. Would I go as far as to call it an investment pen? Meh. But you can't argue with the supply/demand issue and its apparent toll on the price.
It arrived and upon taking it from the box I was pretty much awestruck by this pen. Hard to say if I've laid eyes on anything quite like it where pens are concerned. I have a vintage MYU pen so I had an idea of what to expect, but the M90 is like the MYU 2.0 if that makes sense.
The overall build quality and finish is top notch. It is slightly larger than the original MYU and has a different posting mechanism. The older MYU pens had three spring pressure "flanges" that fit into the section from within and poked out. Think LAMY 2000 fingers. When the cap was placed on the pen, these little fingers held it in place. When posting the pen for writing, the cap simply slipped onto the tail of the pen with no clasping other than a tight fit between the barrel and the cap.
The M90 employs a duel posting system where a ring in the center with fingers serves as the mechanism to hold the cap whether closed or in the writing position. The cap seems to have a bit of a recess that these "clip" into gently. A seemingly subtle change, but definitely an engineering advancement for the pen.
The pen can take either the Pilot/Namiki cartridges or a CON-20 Pilot converter. Some people are funny about this converter (I was) as it is the squeeze type, but it really seems to do the job well. I've yet to have any emergencies, but I always try to make sure the converter is snugly attached.
To fill the pen it works like most others: dip the nib into the ink, squeeze the converter a few times, and voila. Being stainless steel, the nib/section is easy to clean up.
The nib on this M90 is a fine, but they also produced a medium. Definitely expect a Japanese fine with this pen, but what I've found is that the flow is fantastic and the nib is surprisingly smooth. I've stuck pretty much with either Pilot or Namiki blue/black (not the same) and have really enjoyed writing with the pen. I would put it in the good everyday category as long as I have the right paper.
The nib does not have a sweet spot and has taken well to almost any angle I've thrown at it.
Going back to the build, the entire pen isn't made from solid stainless steel as there are some plastic parts inside. The feed looks pretty cool (what you can see of it) as it is a sculpted piece that molds up into the tip so you don't see any fins. Pretty neat and doesn't distract from the streamlined goodness of the design. The threading in the barrel and the section are made of plastic, but the join together by a middle piece made from metal. The M90 shares this with the MYU and I haven't heard of major issues of cracking, stripping the threads, etc.
One final point on the design/aesthetic, Pilot adorned the top of the pen with a blue stone or piece of glass to pay some homage (with slightly more flair) to the MYU which had a small, dark inlay at the tip of the cap. I think it is tastefully done. I'm really not a "jewel" pen person, but the M90 is a bit on the classy side so I'll let it slide.
At this point, buying one of these pens is going to take some commitment from you. This is definitely not a fly-by-night kind of pen purchase and I wanted to try and showcase the pen as best as I can. Is it worth $400-700? I'm going to leave that up to you. The original price tag on these was in the sub-$200 range which was likely underpriced in hindsight.
I look at the M90 as part of the legacy of the Pilot MYU, Murex, Elite family of which I've become a fan (ok, obsessed). My reasons for buying aren't necessarily for the "how does it write" factor, but also the appreciation of its history and the way I feel about the design and engineering marvel that it is. It writes great and I enjoy the function of the pen, but there are a lot of pens for less money that can give you a great experience. The question is, are you smitten enough with the design to justify the M90?