I have been waiting with bated breath for the Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen ($52) to finally be available. It was accidentally revealed a bit ahead of schedule way back in March but they didn’t arrive in the US until mid-June.
Aesthetically, all the cues come straight from the original 849 pen and pencil but there are some unique design decisions added in order to make it a capped pen. First, like the ballpoint pen and pencil, the 849 fountain pen is hexagonal and features the same distinctive clip. I love that Caran d’Ache chooses to cover their own branding with their clip. The only text visible on the pen is the “Swiss Made” visible above the clip. If you peer under the clip, the company name and “849” is visible. This clip placement gave me the idea to do the same thing with my Kaweco Sport pens. Its so tasteful and understated.
The end caps are chrome silver and stick out slightly but are narrower than the rest of the pen. You’ll see further down… there’s a good reason for this.
For the initial release, Caran d’Ache chose offer the 849 fountain pen in four eye-bleeding fluorescent colors (pink, green, orange, yellow) plus black, white and navy enamel lacquer over aluminum body. And wow, is the pink ever PINK! It’s hard to get the camera to capture just how neon it is and I’m sure that most online photos are not capturing the other colors justly either. They are FLUORESCENT! Or op art black and white and navy. The paint finish is perfect.
The cap is a snap cap and if you notice in the picture above there is a silver ring that slides under the edge of a lip on the body of the pen to create a tight seal. It’s a very nice detail.
The nib is an unusual modern shape with a custom Caran d’Ache logo mark. For a steel nib it has a bit of softness to it and a little bit of spring to it. I got the EF nib knowing it would most likely be a European EF and I was right. The line width is comparable to a Kaweco EF but with a good deal more bounce. Its by no means a flex nib but its definitely not hard as nails.
The same chrome lip on the cap also fits over the end so the cap posts securely. How clever is that!
The pen ships with an international cartridge from Caran d’Ache. In this case, their Idyllic Blue ink. I was impatient to try the pen immediately, so I popped the cartridge in and noticed that the cartridge is actually foil stamped with the company name on one side and the color on the other. No playing cartridge roulette with Caran d’Ache! How very nice of them.
While the price point of the 849 fountain pen puts it a bit higher than some of the other “entry level” pens, aesthetically it feels like a pen many would compare with a Pilot Metropolitan, a Lamy Safari or the TWSBIs. So, I thought I’d show them altogether. You’ll notice that the 849 fountain pen is visibly more slender. What the 849 has going for it is that of these four pens, its the only one that takes standard international cartridges and converters. The Lamy and Pilot both use proprietary systems and TWSBI is a plunger filler only. The 849 and the Metropolitan are also the only metal body pens. Lamy offers the AL-Star in metal but not in bright colors like the 849.
When posted, the Caran d’Ache is the longest of them all at a whopping 7 inches (14.2cm). I found the pen completely comfortable to use unposted (almost 5 inches/12cm). It does have a shorter, narrower grip section. The grip section is resin with a bit of a step down due to the cap closure. Other folks have tried out the 849 fountain pen over the past week or so and have found the shorter grip section less comfortable than I have so that’s something to consider.
I was really surprised the discover the line variation from a EF nib. I found it smoother than I expected it to be too. The nibs have to be custom nibs. The design, shape and style is too unique to be a Bock or Jowo nib. Though Caran d’Ache may have one of those companies make the nibs for them. I don’t know the specific details about
Weightwise, the 849 is not very heavy, even being metal. Capped or posted, it only weighs 18gms. Uncapped, it weighs 11gms. I only had the cartridge in it so possibly with a converter, you could add a couple grams if you wanted to. On the flipside, it also made the pen very comfortable in my hand. When you add the softly rounded hexagonal shape and the overall feel of the 849 fountain pen is a generally un-put-down-able pen.
The bright color made it hard to lose in my bag so I was continually reaching for it and the snap cap meant it was easy to open and close for quick notes. The 849 wrote smoothly for me and I liked the bounce of the EF nib. I don’t know if a wider nib would have as much play in it but for usefulness on the widest array of paper types, I recommend a finer nib. If you know you’ll only be using high quality papers or you have a particularly heavy hand, than try the wider F or M nib.
The more I use this pen, the more I like it. Keeping in mind, I really got it as a curiosity so my expectations were really low. The fact that it was not a scratchy, hard-starting POS put it way ahead of the curve in its ability to impress me. I have always loved the 844 mechanical pencils and 849 ballpoints. They are based on the Fixpencil design that has been around since 1929. So, the fact that the pen looks cool, writes well and featured some excellent design details put it over the top for me.
Is it a bit spendy for a steel nib, aluminum barrel fountain pen? Probably. Are you worth it? That’s your call. But as with all Caran d’Ache purchases, I find that after I make them I am always glad I did. Supracolor colored pencils? Worth it. Bi-color 999? Yep. Technalo watersoluble pencils? Oh yeah. Sketcher non-photo blue pencil? Indeed. Things from Switzerland may be a bit more expensive but they just seem to build them a little better. Thanks, Caran d’Ache. Now take my money!