Retro 51 Rollerball Classic Desk Set - Turquoise

Retro 51 is one of the favorite brands in this community. They have fun, quirky, quality, and accessible (mainly price) products that are beloved by people all along the pen hobby spectrum. One of their pens could easily be the first "nice pen" (mine was!) someone buys, but the seasoned veterans of the hobby keep coming back to them as well.

"Life is too short to carry an Ugly Pen!" Or, in the case of this review, perhaps to even have on your desk!

When you think of Retro 51 our minds quickly go to their flagship product, the Tornado, in all its various editions. But, Retro has a few pieces that live a bit on the fringes, and this Classic Desk Set is one of those such products.

Retro 51 was kind enough to send this set over to me for review, so special thanks to them for providing it.

The first thing that stood out to me was the presentation. It comes in a smartly decorated box (sort of a vintage, Art Deco feel) about the size of a small shoebox. If giving something like this as a gift, they've certainly got you covered!

Nestled into foam slots are all of the components of the desk set: the base, pen, and refill/spring.

The color I requested is the turquoise as I felt it gave off the most vintage vibe of the bunch. The sets also come in black, white, black cherry, and stainless (also a contender). The finish on the metal is clean, shiny, and near perfect. Nothing about it was marked, chipped, overlooked, or left amiss which was nice to see.

The base is about a hefty 10oz which should keep it from flying unexpectedly off the desk or tipping over. One thing that surprised me was that the construction is all metal, even the base pen "holder" and pen components.

Branding on the piece is apparent, but tastefully done on the chromed beauty ring rather than being broadcast on the side in ink/vinyl. I really, really like this element about it as it is a bit more reminiscent of how vintage products tended to be.

The pen takes the popular Schmidt Capless rollerball refill which is found in the Tornado, so writing notes with it was a pleasure. Not super great on glossy paper, but for normal journals and paper it is enjoyable to use and lays down wet, dark lines.

Although the pen is almost 7.5" in length, it is fairly lightweight all things considered and not cumbersome to use. The pen does weigh around 1 oz, so for some people it might be a bit on the heavy side. 

The barrel is painted (or enameled?) in the same turquoise color as the base while the grip section is a matte black metal. There is a small chrome beauty ring towards the end which is a nice accent.

For practicality purposes, this set is obviously a stationary stationery (see what I did there?...)... but that is what its designed for. Products like this are so rare nowadays and seemingly unnecessary, but that is what makes it unique and fun. It'll give you something to look forward to when doing monthly bills, or I could easily see one of these at the front desk of a business or office rather than cheap bic stics with fake flowers taped to them so they don't get stolen...

Thanks again to Retro 51 for sending this set for review!

Fancy Ballpoint Pens - Sailor's 1911 and Pro Gear

Sometimes all you need is a fancy ballpoint pen.

Ballpoint? Ballpoint?!?!?!!...  Yes.

I've mentioned this before, but over the last year or so I've definitely found myself drawn to using rollerball, gel, and ballpoint pens for convenience. Fountain pens are still so fun, but I've found that for my day-to-day they aren't as easy to fit in. But, that doesn't mean you can't write in style.

Sailor recently launched a new, full-size 1911 ballpoint pen and the folks at Pen Chalet were kind enough to provide me one for review. And, they also sent me a Pro Gear version to do a bit of comparison which is awesome because, although subtle, these two pens put off entirely different vibes.

My request was for the glossy piano black resin with rhodium trim (to match each other) which is actually really nice. These pens look and feel like fancy pens.

The thing is, with fancy ballpoint pens a few brands usually come to mind like Montblanc, Parker, Cross (the higher end ones), but Sailor? Not so much. They have a really proud heritage and reputation for their fountain pens, but their non-fountain versions don't seem to draw as much attention or recognition.

One of my thoughts with doing this review was seeing how well the Sailor pens held up against others, particular in making buying decisions.

I own some fancy ballpoints, but not a lot. Although one such pen is a Montblanc Starwalker series called the Urban Spirit. It is FANCY (but, also modern). For awhile I was of an opinion that Montblanc pens were ridiculously overpriced, but the quality, finish and presence of their products really is pretty impeccable. Like a nice watch, leather bag, handmade shoes... 

$400+ reasonable though? That depends on a lot of factors, but they are nice. Even the entry point Montblanc ballpoints are floating in the mid-$300 range.

I bring this up as I put these into a similar category to the Sailors. Although, the Sailor pens will run you between $110 and $130 which is quite a difference. Do they hold up?

In many ways, I'd say yes.

Out of the box, the Sailor pens portray a very similar sense of presence and quality that I'd wager your average person might not be able to distinguish from Montblanc if they weren't already "starstruck" by the white star. They look beautiful, the shiny black resin reflecting the light, the seams of the silver furniture lining up perfectly, and the sharp alignment of all the parts in harmony.

These are pens that will turn heads.

To extend the tip both the 1911 and Pro Gear are a twist mechanism which work smoothly. I did find that if it wasn't tightened down quite right, the top of the cap and barrel would come undone when twisting, but a gentle push in the "closed" direction got things in place for future twists. 

There is a little bit of squeaking or a feeling of some flex when you twist it (maybe I'm just too aggressive...not really) from time to time. I think this is due to the barrel resin connecting to a metal piece, but isn't overly distracting.

The proprietary Sailor ballpoint refill is smooth and very enjoyable. Not mind blowing, but really nice with less of the dreaded "white space" in the lettering that you might find with other ballpoints.

Being both full-sized pens, they fit nicely in the hand with some heft, but they are not in any way heavy. The 1911 version seems to feel a bit weightier, as it is larger in spots than the Pro Gear.

From a style standpoint, the 1911 is more your classic "nice pen" look with a rounded finial and curvier lines, while the Pro Gear is a bit more on the edgy, modern side with its flat top and sharper, conical tip. They seem to be built on the same platform, but these subtle design changes provide such a contrast in appearance it took me a bit by surprise. I've owned both 1911s and Pro Gear pens in the past, but haven't given them a strong side-by-side.

With graduations coming up (being the time of year when fancy ballpoint sales are up I'm sure), I'd say these Sailor pens are a strong alternative to higher end pens and will still get that message across for the "rite of passage" into the working, grown-up world we live in.

Or, if you're wanting to spruce up your writing game when working with clients, these would also do the trick in improving the overall feel of the experience. It seems so vain, but a nice pen during a loan closing says a bit more than a Bic Stic. Just saying.

Like almost all Sailor pens, these come packaged in a lovely blue box with silver letters that will enhance the presentation when gift giving.

My ONLY wish is that Sailor would make a fully-capped rollerball version of these...

Thanks again to Pen Chalet for providing these for review!


Kaweco AL Sport "Night" Edition - Most Wanted Pens

I must be going through a phase of all black pens or something lately... working on polishing up those ninja skills. Or, there are just a bunch of sweet pens that I've been trying lately that happen to be on the more nocturnal side.

A new "Night" Edition of the Kaweco AL Sport has just been recently released as an exclusive by the folks at Most Wanted Pens ( which I was excited to check out. They were kind enough to send me a fountain pen version for review, but I asked them if I could also buy a rollerball at the same time to take a look at them as a set.  

We can consider the Kaweco Sport series as a bit of a staple in the pocket pen arena. Unique and historical design, strong quality, and a good story to go along with it. They are as fun and interesting to use as they are practical.

I've about lost count, but in the last 4 years or so of doing this blog I have reviewed probably 8 different variations of the Kaweco Sport lineup which is pretty wild. One of my favorites was the now discontinued ART Sport series, which was a lineup of the popular design made from a variety of beautiful acrylics.   

Shot from my ART Sport review post

Shot from my ART Sport review post

The Night Edition really is not different in function and utility when compared to other AL Sports, but it is definitely more "stealthy". The all black finish is super sleek.

The pens come in a simple, but nice Kaweco tin, nestled in a velvety plastic tray. Although I don't generally store my pens back in them, the Kaweco tins are surprisingly difficult to get rid of as they can easily be repurposed to hold ink cartridges, refills, etc.

The overall finish is a matte black, but the Kaweco emblem and fountain pen nib are more of a shiny appearance. Normally the etching of the "Kaweco AL Sport Germany" on the side of the cap is highly visible, but in this case it is coated and more subtle.

For the fountain pen I requested a fine nib as I've always tended to have success in the EF or F sizes with Kaweco. As mentioned above, the nib is also coated in black to match the overall aesthetic of the edition.  

It writes clean, is a bit on the dryer, feedback side, and is pleasant to write with. I loaded mine up with the included Kaweco black ink cartridge, but it can take any standard international. There is the possibility of using a Kaweco mini converter, but I've never had one and can't speak to how well it functions.

As mentioned, I also ordered a companion rollerball version because, well, I really enjoy the AL Sport rollerball pens. My favorite was the raw aluminum version, but I gave that one to a dear friend and have been itching for a new one which I think this one will suffice.

The rollerball version takes a standard Parker style refill, but can also take the beloved Schmidt Capless P8126 (or 7) refills. I actually thought they usually shipped with the P8126, but this time it had a Kaweco branded Ceramic Gel Roller 0.7 refill which is actually pretty great. I don't love it as much as the Capless, but out of the box I enjoyed it.

The only real downside is that being a special edition these seem to fetch a bit of a premium coming in at 100 Euro for the fountain pen (but comes down to around 84 Euro when the VAT is removed for US buyers) and the rollerball at 70 Euro, but they sure are cool. This rounds out to about $65 to $90 US respectively (not including shipping). But, if an all black motif is totally your style, these may be worth the extra spend.

Special thanks to Most Wanted Pens for providing the fountain pen for review!