Anything with "o-matic" in the name is either bound to be something really awesome, or something from a cheap, late-night infomercial. Or a home appliance from the 50's that makes french fries or something.
Luckily, the Retro 51 Hex-o-matic comes out on top and is shaping up to be an absolutely fantastic pen. I picked this one up while on a visit to my local pen shop, Scottsdale Pen. If you are local to the Phoenix area or happen to be in town, drop by Jay's shop as he carries a wide selection and is great to chat with. Summer is also the slow season for him as graduations and Father's Day are over, so picking up a pen from him will help support a local small business.
Although it doesn't really impact the feel or function of the pen, Retro did a really great job with the packaging. The pen comes in a cardboard box, but it is shaped like a hexagonal tube in reference to the barrel. There are blue schematic drawings of the pen against a matte black/gray box that make the presentation really cool. Kind of reminds me of something you'd see as a Space Mountain or Star Tours prop while waiting in line to get on the ride.
This thing feels great. It has a brass body and is very weighty and sturdy. If you aren't familiar with the Rotring 600, the Hex-o-matic takes many (if not most) of its design elements from it. This is good though as the old style Rotrings have been discontinued and I think Retro has done a great job paying homage to a classic. The barrel is thin, like the Rotring, which I've read that some people find uncomfortable.
I decided to post a few pictures of the Hex-o-matic along side the Rotring 600 Lava Ballpoint I reviewed a little while ago to get a comparison, although my Rotring doesn't have the knurled grip.
One design element that Retro put in to maintain their brand is the knurled top section below the knock. Although subtle, they tie together this pen with their Tornado line by keeping the same "lip" at the top which I think this is a nice addition. Kudos, Retro.
The knock on the Hex-o-matic feels almost exactly the same as the Rotring although, maybe just a bit stiffer. To actually depress the knock you have to push it down slightly first for it to engage in actually extending the tip. This is similar to "double action" mechanical pencils (which Retro and Rotring both make) where you push the tip down all the way to extend the tip, but then smaller, more subtle clicks to extend the lead. On a pencil like that, I get it. On the pen? Not necessary, but I assume that Retro uses the same mechanism. Not a deal breaker, but an observation.
The clip is pretty stiff, although with enough force (or catching the pen on something), I'd imagine it could bend out. This isn't something that I would lose sleep over though. I like also how the "O" in Hex-o-matic is actually a hexagon. Nerdy? You bet, but awesome.
The Hex-o-matic comes pre-loaded with the Schmidt EasyFlow, and the more I use this refill the more I like it. For a ballpoint it lays down a nice dark line. The EasyFlow is a "Parker Style" which means there may be other option to pop in here like the popular Moleskine Gel Roller, Parker QuinkFlow, and maybe even the Fisher Space Pen (with spacer). The tip does move a little bit, but I don't consider it distracting.
I'm going to say overall that Retro 51 did a fantastic job with this one. At around $35, could this be seen as expensive? Maybe, but not compared to buying a NOS Rotring 600 ballpoint in the same style... (although I do want one of those too...)