The Future of The System Retro 51 Exclusive - Can you still get one?

Ho. ly. cow. That was crazy everyone! I knew it would be popular, but didn’t think it would go that quickly! If you didn’t get one, don’t fret…

Everybody strap in because there is some news on the future of The System Tornado design, and there seems to be a need for some clarity around things in general.

Here we go.

Open Numbered Edition - What is that?

In all the frenzy of trying to get one of the first batch of The System Tornado design, I’ve found that this was a key piece of information that many people overlooked or it wasn’t super clear.

On social media and through email a lot of people have been upset in thinking there were only ever going to be 300 pens which is a total bummer. If you made comments and felt left hanging, consider this my mass reply to all of you. : )

First of all, I think this design is pretty awesome. So awesome in fact that it would be crazy for Retro 51 and I to think that only 300 people would want one! If I will be honest, I designed this pen because I knew I would want one just like it and figured many other people might too. A lot more than 300 over time...

Well, we accounted for that from the beginning.

As noted in the official post announcing the pen and pre-order, and on the product page, The System Tornado is classified as an Open Numbered Edition, which means, it is a numbered series, but not limited to any given number of pens to be produced. We started with 300 to initially test the waters and then move forward from there.

This language of Open Numbered Edition was recommended by Retro 51 to use on The System as they’ve used it before in other pen releases like their Flying Fortress design in the Tribute Series. They continued to make more of that pen in numbered sequence as demand required, but ultimately retired it at some point when things died down. Retro 51 sought to clarify this language on their recent Facebook post announcing The System as well.

In short, “Open Numbered Edition” does not equal “Limited Edition”.

In a way, I'm glad that this discussion is happening now as it showcases the precedent Retro has already set with other releases in a much clearer way that will make the community run into less confusion like this moving forward.

If this was a point of confusion, take this as my official statement that neither Retro 51 nor I meant in any way to be misleading. If you bought during the pre-order and this information changes your decision to purchase the pen, please feel free to reach out to me directly so I can issue you a refund for it.

Retro 1951 Collectors

There is no doubt that there is a strong following for Retro 51 pens, and a community of collectors that particularly seek out their limited editions. The new pens often get scooped up super fast right out of the gates and often end up on eBay for tremendous amounts of money.

I can totally appreciate that there is supply and demand and people are willing to pay prices that they feel is a “fair” exchange. Capitalism is great, but can be super frustrating at times for people wanting to enjoy somewhat scarce products. Field Notes and Blackwing lovers have experienced this too.

Shoot, I paid $100 to buy one of the discontinued Tron Legacy series ballpoints from Retro 51 a few years back, so I get it! It originally retailed for like $35. Love that pen...

But, that was not the intent of this pen. By design, as an Open Numbered Edition the goal was to continue creating this pen until no one else wanted them.

The creative vision I had for The System which I expressed in my announcement is as follows:

“The Solar System is home to all of us and has played such an important role in human civilization. For millennia, our ancestors have looked to the stars and planets for guidance about who we are and where we fit within this crazy existence. I thought it only fitting that such an important and universal part of our lives be translated into something we can carry with us.”

Those aren’t just words; my hope was that lots of people would get joy out of this pen and help them think about the bigger picture. (And have a pretty sweet pen too.)

We want everyone that will enjoy this pen design to be able to get one, not just 300, or at extreme prices.

Will this clarification on the Open Numbered Edition frustrate some collectors and the resale market? Maybe. But the original intent was that this would be an ongoing release from the get go.

Again, if this changes your decision with your pre-order, please let me know and I'll get it refunded.

Will There Be More of The System?:

Yes! The Open Numbered Edition is still open and Retro 51 and I are excited to put through an order for more pens soon that continue the numbered series.

If you'd like to sign up to be notified when more pens are ready for pre-order (this also helps us gauge how many we might need), please provide your information and I'll keep in touch!

And, Thank You:

Biggest point of all, thank you. This has been one of the coolest things creating a new pen design with one of my favorite brands (and that was so well received) and I’ve been ecstatic to share it with you all. And I’m excited for more of you to get one!

And, special thanks to Retro 1951 (especially Richard and Ross) for their amazing help in making it a reality.

- Mike Dudek

The System: Clicky Post Exclusive Retro 51 Tornado (Announcement & Pre-Order) SOLD OUT

Oh wow, there are some things that are hard to keep under wraps!

This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile, but I'm so pleased to finally announce a collaboration with Retro 51 to create a Clicky Post exclusive called The System, a space themed version of their popular Tornado series rollerball pen.

There are times when I get what seems like a crazy idea in my head for a pen, and luckily it worked out that this one was to become a reality. One of my favorite brands, and one of the earliest "nice pens" I bought was a Retro 51, so I am so thrilled to have been able to work with them on this design. 

The Solar System is home to all of us and has played such an important role in human civilization. For millennia, our ancestors have looked to the stars and planets for guidance about who we are and where we fit within this crazy existence. I thought it only fitting that such an important and universal part of our lives be translated into something we can carry with us.

The System” pen features a matte black barrel with a representation of the planets, each one with either their unique color or features, orbiting the sun on glow in the dark rings. 

Accenting the barrel are gloss black “dark matter” stripes for added texture and mystery...

To finish it off, the finial of the pen is adorned with an orange disc representing the sun which adds a nice pop of bright color over the pen's overall dark features.

And, we even saved a place for Pluto… #weloveyoupluto    

The System is an Open Numbered Edition from 1 - 300 and are now available for pre-order with estimated shipping in early May!

22 Design Studio Contour Concrete Ballpoint Pen

Even after all of these years of writing the blog, I still love pens. Crazy right? Although I do enjoy nearly all pens, there are times when one intrigues me just a bit more than most and I know I need to try it.

There is a brand I've seen on occasion, 22 Design Studio, that has a line of goods that are made from specially cast concrete which are absolutely stunning. Upon seeing them they take you a bit by surprise, like interesting architecture or a unique concept car; you recognize what it is (or "does") but its form seems like something that shouldn't really exist. It blurs the lines of art and function so well that you can't help but lean into it.

There are a lot of highly practical and conservative products on the market to serve the masses, but there are very few that take bold design risks and create products that may only serve a very few.

Kohezi Amsterdam is a retailer that specialized in curating products that fit the above and they were kind enough to send me this pen for review. If this pen intrigues you, please take the time to look through their store as they surely have other goods you've also never heard of in the same vein. 

The pen model in review is called the Contour, which is a series of writing tools by 22 Design Studio (or just "22") that comes in a fountain pen, rollerball, clutch pencil, mechanical pencil, and now this new ballpoint version.

The look of the pen is so interesting. In creating the design they opted to do a textured, stair step approach which, in my opinion, is what really makes the pen. There are a lot of round and even a good amount of faceted barreled pens, but not many quite like this. On each side of the pen are 11 steps roughly a millimeter in height... put those together and you end up with... 22. I can't presume this is a coincidence.

From a branding standpoint there is a thin type set "22" protruding slightly from the barrel as part of the casting process. Over time and years of use there is a good chance this may wear away as the pen shapes and molds (contours?) to you as the user. 

Being concrete you'd think the pen might be heavy, but the overall weight of the pen is just 1.2 oz which quite surprised me. I wouldn't consider the pen small as it comes in at a length of nearly 5.75" and is around 1/2" at its widest diameter. 

From a comfort standpoint, I will admit that the pen isn't cozy at all holding points. It actually took me a little bit of trial and error to find a grip that didn't include the steps pressing against my fingers. The barrel shape is more of an oval, if that makes sense, and has flatter sides that merge into the sharper step side. 

If you can think of a standard triangle grip, I found the most comfort with my middle finger and thumb on the flat sides, and my index finger at the apex of the ridges.

Aside from getting the grip right, the pen feels actually quite soft to the touch yet a bit cold. Very interesting.

I've noticed over the last few weeks of using the pen that it has started to take on a patina around the edges from the oils in my hands, similar to how a brass or copper pen would but not as smelly. I'm actually quite curious as to how it will continue to break in as I use it. Will it get smooth and worn or just get a sort of "film" which sounds less pleasant.

They do have a section on care which I'll quote:

"You are encouraged to avoid storing our products in humid or wet environments since water will penetrate pores of the concrete and weaken the structural integrity of our products. Thus, items created by 22 should not be brought into the shower or worn during water activities."

To the above, if the pen gets dirty there isn't really a good way to clean it. At least not with water which is good to note. 

To extend the Schmidt P 900 (international G2) refill, the pen has a substantial and satisfying click mechanism. Honestly, probably one of my favorites in a long time. Good tension and a really, really good audible "click" that you can feel go into place. You know you're a pen nerd when you think about a click mechanism in this much detail...

There is one thing that was sometimes difficult when clicking. We'll call it an annoyance, but not a quality control issue. The clip's placement has the top of it resting just slightly above the knock mechanism seating section which, as you press, can meet your thumb first before the click engages. So, when you click with your thumb it stops short which either means you press a bit harder and push into your flesh (not the most fun), or learn to move your thumb slightly so the clip doesn't touch it in the first place. Not a deal breaker, but something to point out. If the top of the clip was 2mm lower it would be a non issue.

Speaking of the clip, it is solid stainless steel and has a spring action. Embedded in the concrete barrel is also a tiny steel plate to prevent unnecessary wear as the clip opens and closes.

The hardware on the pen is also solid, brushed stainless steel which looks fantastic agains the more matte concrete barrel.

I've shown the pen to quite a few people and most have asked me: "what if you drop it?" 

Well, my plan is not to drop it as I don't believe it is designed to be indestructible. On the contrary, I would actually treat this pen a bit more like one from acrylic as I'm sure the concrete could shatter. I won't be verifying this, so you'll just have to assume that it is best not to be too rough with it...

I can say without reservation that this is a wonderfully made product. The internals are also made of brass and nothing (NOTHING) feels amiss from a quality standpoint.

The price point on the pen isn't cheap at $90 - 100 depending on the exchange, but for what you receive I wouldn't blink in saying it was worth the price. There are fancy resin ballpoint pens at 2 to 3 times the price, but without nearly as much character (or quality...). To me this is a very special and interesting product on the market and I'm extremely glad it exists.

Is this the right choice if you are looking for a purely practical pen? Probably not, but if the form and design of this pen resonates I'd strongly consider it.

Thanks again to Kohezi for sending the pen for review!