Ah, Retro 51, one of our most beloved gateway pen makers... For many of us pen fanatics, the Retro 51 Tornado is probably the first time we ever dipped our toes into the "expensive" pen world. Starting at $20 or so, looking back that "plunge" seems almost silly, but at the time $20 for ONE PEN seemed like a lot of money.
Starting with the standard lacquer series as the base model of the lineup, the fun and fanciness only goes up from there... Retro is always releasing new models and limited editions to keep us coming back for more.
Currently on the slightly higher end of the Retro 51 spectrum (if you want to go a bit on the fancy-fancy side) is a newer release called the Deco Tower edition which is built on the new slim Tornado and is sheathed in .925 sterling silver.
There are a few design periods that tend to get me really excited, and the streamlined yet expressive (quite gaudy at times even) Art Deco movement of the 20's and 30's is no exception. So naturally when I heard there was an Art Deco inspired Tornado coming out I was anxious to get my hands on one.
The pen I'm reviewing was kindly sent over by the folks at Pen Boutique, a pen retailer that not only has an impressive online offering, but also has two physical retail locations around the Washington DC and Baltimore area. If you're near there, definitely swing by to check them out and, special thanks to them for providing the review sample.
Retro has had a sterling Tornado for some time now so it isn't a completely new concept for the brand, but what they've done with the Deco Tower edition is just exquisite.
Packaged in a simple, but nice, textured black cardboard tube stamped with shiny silver lettering is the pen upright and at attention waiting for you to take it out and start ogling it. Seriously, this pen is a stunner.
From top to bottom, the pen is shiny, shimmery, and silvery. That is likely what takes you initially by surprise is just how "pretty" it is. In essence, it is like a piece of jewelry or fine flatware, but you write with it and it is beautiful.
Starting after the shiny chrome tip, textured designs start shooting upward towards the knock mechanism. Side by side, thin rectangles on both sides of the pen gradually step up into what could be described as a skyscraper-esque image. Because the pen is tapered, this creates a fantastic illusion of perspective at certain angles.
The remainder of the silver barrel is filled in with thin grooves that run the length of the pen. Stamped just below the knock section is stamped "925 Sterling".
Being sterling, over time I anticipate the pen will acquire a tarnish that can either be left on or polished away. Retro kindly provides a polishing cloth in the packaging.
It has been awhile since I've seen a pen that stands out to me like this one has. I'm not trying to overly flatter the pen by any means, but I am completely and honestly impressed with how they've executed this.
Being in the slim Tornado family, it is a smidge skinnier than the standard, but feels great. If you've used/seen the Apple Store Tornado pens, these are the same size. From a comfort perspective, I think the slim is more enjoyable than the standard. The Tornado can seem a bit on the top heavy side, but the slim seems to solve a good portion of that.
The only downside (sort of) with the slim is that it only takes the Schmidt Easy Flow 9000 ballpoint size (or Parker) refill and not the P8126 rollerball that pretty much everyone knows and loves. If you don't like Parker style refills and are hoping for the rollerball, no dice.
For a ballpoint, the Easy Flow is probably my favorite in this size anyway. Not the same dark, wet lines of the rollerball, but smooth, consistent, and generally without the dreaded "white lines" that show through the ink of most ballpoint pens.
Retail on the Deco Tower Tornado comes in at $139, not inexpensive by any means, but I'm of the opinion that this price is fair given the material, craftsmanship, and design. Although I received this model as a sample, I would certainly pay that much for one (and will likely buy another actually).
I'm fairly certain that my feelings about this pen are clear, but I really do love it.
I will say that this is a pen that will get use, but will be cared for. Some people are of the mindset that when you buy something you shouldn't be overly delicate as you won't see ample enjoyment from it, but I agree and disagree to a point. Utility from something is extremely important to me, but a pen like this I would hate to just throw into my pocket with keys, in the bottom of a purse or backpack, or damage neglectfully due to a lack of care. If I want a "beater" Tornado, I'd go for a classic stainless for $20.
Make the Deco Tower the pen you use when out on the town a bit...
Special thanks again to Pen Boutique for providing the pen for review!