Last summer, after answering an Ask The Desk post about finding a classic ballpoint pen, I developed a fascination with Cross Century pens. At the DC Pen Show, I acquired my first, an engraved Cross Century II in matte blue metallic and have since acquired three more: two classic Cross Centuries and a Cross Century II Starlight from NOS this December. You may be asking yourself, what’s the fascination?
First, the original Cross Century is similar to the Parker Jotter in that the design has been around for decades. Its classic, streamlined and elegant. Originally created in 1946 and still in production today, the Cross Century is a sleek, elegant design and, like the Jotter, worthy of being in any pen collector’s collection, whether you acquire your grandfather’s or purchase a new one. Or both.
The Cross Century II is an updated version of the Century modified to accommodate rollerball refills, a more ergonomic grip section and the larger pens preferred by modern pen consumers. This also allowed for some innovations in their refills as well which Cross refers to as the “Selectip” refills which appealed to me because one of the options is a felt tip. Of all the major pen manufacturers, Cross is the only one I know of that offers felt tip as a refill option.
(This is the point at which I am NOT going to talk about the Star Wars Cross designs. Like they never even happened. Nevermind, those are the “Townsend” line — they are still awful. I can gripe about the Marvel Century IIs. Those are bad too. Giant logos do not make for good licensed products. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled happy review.)
And then there’s the “Switch-It” mechanical pencil option that can be dropped into the ballpoint pen to turn it into a pencil. I love a pen manufacturer who considers giving their customers range and options! Of course, the actual implementation of the “Switch-It” refill is a little janky and it is only available as a 0.7mm mechanical pencil which steam a lot of people since the older Cross mechanical pencils were 0.5mm or 0.9mm so the fact that the Switch-It insert only has one width option is kind of lame. Anyway, actually using the Switch-It insert took a little practice since it doesn’t work like any other mechanical pencil I’ve ever used.
While it took me awhile to figure out how to work the Cross “Switch It” Pencil refill on my own. I came to the same operating action as demonstrated in the video shown here:
And, of course, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I modified the Cross Spire pictured at the top of the photo to accept a Uni Signo 0.38mm D1 refill by jamming a bit of plastic in the end of the barrel to make up the space disparity in the length. It’s now one of my favorite everyday pens.
My engraved “The Well-Appointed Desk” Cross Century II Royal Blue Selectip Rollerball Pen $29.95 (plus engraving charges) is filled with the fine tip porous point black ink and the Cross Century II Starlight Rollerball in Grey has a fine tip porous point with blue ink. The Starlight was purchased NOS and is no longer available but Anderson Pens still has some of the ballpoint pen models available.
Cross refills are considerably more limited than Parker. Cross makes proprietary refill sizes and offer a limited range of tip sizes and colors, where PArker style refills became the industry-standard size. As a result, Cross pens are not nearly as popular unless you like plain black and blue ink and medium width ballpoint or rollerball refills. However, if you are willing to do a little tweaking, there’s some opportunities to make these beauties work for you. And, in some ways, it looks like Cross is trying their best to help too like the Switch-It pencil refill.
Now, if they can build on that…
The models shown above but not mentioned are:
- Cross Century Classic in Black Gingham $39.95 with the Switch-It 0.7mm mechanical pencil refill and Pilot Neox red lead
- Cross Spire Icy Chrome Rollerball Pen $59.95 so not technically a Century but still vey classic.
3 comments / Add your comment below
no cross century fountain pens? 🙂 i’ve been wanting the cross century II in the classic black & gold only to find that it has been discontinued and the very reasonable price has shot way up.
Not yet. Maybe some day.
Didn’t Cross stop making the switch-it? If so, I have to say that I’m very disappointed. This means that you can no longer get a century ii as a pencil. Bad business decision in my opinion. I hope Cross reconsiders.