Défi Skeleton Gun Metal Ballpoint by S.T. Dupont - Review

As much as I love fountain pens, I find myself drawn quite often to ballpoint and rollerball pens as well. Fountain pens are fussy, needy, and sometimes aren’t the right tool for the job.

I admit to having a bit of a “style” here on The Clicky Post that resonates with me, usually along the lines of some sort of all-metal or machined barrel. Admittedly those are the types of pens I reach for almost daily as I love the sleek metallic finish, weight, and cool feel of those types of writing instruments in hand.

From time to time I want to try something I’d consider to be up in the “fancy” spectrum of ballpoints (based on price usually) because the design stands out as interesting. A pen I’d wanted to try for quite some time is the Défi series by S.T. Dupont; has a sort of sleek, almost futuristic vibe and you don’t hear much about them.

I picked this one up from Appelboom early this year (note that they are a site sponsor as well) and within the series there are 8 or so schemes to choose from. I debated between the titanium and the gun metal skeleton versions, and as it turns out the skeleton won.

The price point on the Défi ballpoints start at $200+ (definitely not cheap) which puts you up into Montblanc sort of money to pick one up. In the pen world I do find price to be a very relative thing and ones tolerance to price even more so. What makes a pen worth a higher price point? Is it worth it?… From pure functionality it seems mad to pay a lot for something like a pen, but there is a craftsmanship and feel that comes from using a nice instrument, regardless of it’s seemingly simple task (like writing…). Sometimes it’s ok to buy something expensive if you’ll enjoy it.

The pen came packaged in a sleek matte black box, not overly fancy, with just a gloss black “D” on the top.

In appearance, I find the pen to be really slick and very interesting to look at. There is kind of a lot going on, particularly with the skeleton version. There are textures, barrel breaks, inner workings visible (I’d consider it a bit of a demonstrator ballpoint if that is a thing), and shiny gunmetal accents all around. It’s a lot busier in design than I’m used to choosing for myself, but I find it pretty striking. In retrospect, the titanium version mentioned above is definitely more my normal style with its uniform color and solid barrel, but it was nice to branch out a little.

Being a demonstrator style pen, much of the barrel is a clear acrylic which feels extremely sturdy. Even being a sort of plastic, the pen doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. The acrylic is definitely on the clearer side; I could’ve seen them doing a slightly smoked acrylic as well which would’ve been a subtle way to connect back to the metal color.

The clip is a thin metal bar that covers nearly half of the pen and has a spring mechanism for slipping over shirt/jacket pockets more easily. The clip is sturdy, but there is some movement back and forth near the top when you grab and wiggle it with your fingers. This is definitely not a pen made to be beat up, so for most people the clip doesn’t need to take excessive wear and tear.

Similar to a lot of ballpoints in this style, the refill is extended by twisting the grip section. The action has a bit of a spring to it and at about a third of a turn it engages and snaps the rest of the way. I have a couple of twist mechanism Montblanc ballpoints as well and they deploy something similar, but with slightly more required from the user (but not much).

When comparing this pen’s twist action to other higher end ballpoints it really isn’t quite as smooth or enjoyable. There is a definite audible noise as you make the twist (kind of like metal parts moving together; not grinding per se, but noise) which I feel diminishes it a bit. For the price point of over $300 for this particular ballpoint I’d think it would be on par with the likes of the Montblanc Starwalker series who’s twist is buttery smooth.

Since I went with more of a demonstrator model, that could impact some of this, but I can’t be sure. The more solid metal barrels may tone down some of the resonance within the movement; I may have to try a titanium after all! We’ll see.

All that being said, the writing experience with the pen is excellent. The tip is sturdy with little to no movement, and the refill provided is very enjoyable. I just went into the experience thinking I would get one thing and ended up getting something slightly different.

The surface texture of the metal components is more of a polished, mirror finish. From the pictures I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as it could have gone either a brushed finish or more shiny. It was the latter and the finish has a tendency to pick up fingerprints very easily. But it sure looks sharp.

As mentioned above, you don’t hear a whole lot about S.T. Dupont in the blog circles so much which was another reason I was eager to try something of theirs and to offer a good objective view on it. S.T. Dupont is interesting in a way since all of their pens are designed and manufactured in-house in France which is actually pretty awesome.

In closing, I think the Défi ballpoint is a beautiful pen that is sure to turn some heads in your next meeting. It has a different appeal than a Montblanc, maybe similar to how the Porsche Design pen products do. They are certainly branded but aren’t quite as recognizable which, for some, might be what they are looking for. I want a nice, clever looking pen but may not want to go the Montblanc route that most people do (no knocks to Montblanc as their quality really is impeccable).

The audible noise of the mechanism is really my only “turn off” so to speak on the pen. I wish it was a bit smoother/tighter like that of it’s competition. Regardless, if someone loves the design of the Défi and has the budget I don’t think they’d be disappointed.

Appelboom Coupon

This particular post isn’t really sponsored by Appelboom, but as one of the site sponsors I do want to callout that there is a promo code FRIEND that can take 10% off at checkout (not for Montblanc unfortunately) if you choose to go through them. They offer awesome service and have a great selection that I haven’t found in other retailers. Definitely give them a look.

Penwell Traveler Desk Accessory by Good Made Better - Kickstarter

This seems to happen a lot, but it feels like I’ve just reviewed something and then look back and it has been almost a whole year! Well, about a year ago last November I was contacted by a gentleman named Dan Keller about a new product he’d created called the Penwell.

In essence, the Penwell was a removable base that would stick to your desk or writing surface that allowed you to quickly access your capped pens for on and off writing. This was a very cool and I’d consider innovative product that hit the market and I know people have been enjoying theirs.

The initial model Dan created had a more traditional, more curvy style reminiscent of an old inkwell bottle. It had a very classic aesthetic, and with the model I reviewed being made from walnut, almost even an antique sort of feel. Very handsome indeed and extremely well made.

Dan has just released a new version of the Penwell, the Traveler, on Kickstarter (already funded actually!) that takes the original intent of the design, but adds a more modern, industrial look to it.

In exchange for the curves and more softer design, he has replaced it with sharper edges, corners, and mechanical features that really stand out in contrast. One thing I want to call out is just how much I love the stark difference between product lines. Most companies will tend to maintain a similar vibe to their various products, but Dan opted to go in an almost opposite direction and I think it is fantastic.

The Traveler, as the name suggests, is meant to be a more portable product. Whether at your desk at home, in a coffee shop, or even in your cubicle at work, this particular Penwell has a new feature that lets it “fold up” in a sense into a small footprint for your bag or pen case. Even with the seemingly simpler design (even though more complex…weird how that works), the functionality is not hindered in the least.

Originally I was a bit skeptical of the micro-suction pad at the bottom being able to really adhere effectively, but it does. Granted, the surface needs to be clean and smooth (won’t work on textured surfaces well), but it is snug when put in place. Its actually surprising how well it sticks, but can be easily removed.

Now, it isn’t like you’re 3M taping it to your desk, so with a tug it does come off. While in use, the capped pen needs to be either unscrewed or opened and then “rested” in the cap during writing stints. Once you’re done with your session, you’d want to seal up the pen to prevent drying.

While a bit more rugged than the original Penwell, the Traveler fit and finish is still nice. The edges are clean, the angles are crisp, and it functions as intended. For mine, Dan was kind enough to send me my requested tumbled aluminum (since I like that vibe) which gives it a nice metal look, but not perfect.

Inside the Traveler there is more of a square foam insert (versus the round in the original) that is reversible based on the diameter of your pen. It takes a little doing pushing it out to swap it around, but overall a pretty easy process.

To seat your pen you don’t need to push hard, but just enough until it is snug. The product will fit most pens comfortably (even those with clips), but for really big pens it is probably not the best.

It goes without saying that the foam insert will keep your pen safe and there is decent room keeping your cap from the metal, but if you’re not careful I’d wager that someone could pretty easily start pushing on their pen at the wrong angle and put a nice gouge in their barrel. Probably not a super common thing to happen, but when seating the pen take caution.

I think the Penwell and Penwell Traveler by Good Made Better are just great products. They are nicely made with care (quality really is awesome) and are pretty reasonably priced starting at around the $40 range and moving up from there. If you are a desk writer that also likes to multitask, definitely take a look at their Kickstarter.

Thanks again to Dan for sending this sample my way to check out!

Fall Pen Sale

As I do once or twice a year, I’ve gone through my pen cases and have sifted out some goodies that I’d like to part with which I offer up here on The Clicky Post.

There is a pretty good selection over at the Pen Sale page so definitely take a look. As always, let me know if you have any questions about the items.

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