Review by Laura Cameron
You may or may not remember that in my first post on The Desk I talked about how my Retro 51 Tornado in Black Cherry (and truly Retro 51) was my gateway drug into the fountain pen world. My love for Retro 51s hasn’t abated, so I was intrigued to hear that they were making product improvements and that there would be a redesigned version releasing this year. Ana ordered one in Aquamarine from Vanness Pen Shop ($65) for me and I was off to the races. (For the purposes of this review I’ll compare the Aquamarine to my Black Cherry).
On it’s face, the new Tornado looks similar to the old Tornado. The new colors (Aquamarine, Ultraviolet and Orchid) are designed in a “frosted metallic” style meaning they have a matte finish both on the pen body and the silver trim. (Former editions of the Tornado were a shiny finish.)
I started by comparing the exteriors of the pens – the length appears to differ only slightly, by less than 1/8th of an inch, and the weights are roughly the same as well (new: 33g and old: 32g, but that may be the result of uneven ink fills).
So now let’s look at the real differences: the nib and the grip section. The previous versions of the Retro 51 Tornado used Schmidt nibs and came with the Medium as the standard nib (though I believe Fine was available on request). The new versions have upgraded to the Jowo #6 nib, and are now available in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and 1.1 stub italic.
They’ve also re-worked the grip section. It appears to be approximately the same length, but the new grip is somewhat contoured, whereas the older grip narrowed in a straight line.
My final test was filling the pens and letting them sit for a while. Although I love my Retro 51s (and I have SEVERAL more not pictured here), historically they have dried out pretty quickly and often require water to get them started again. I let both pens sit untouched for a week, and sure enough my Black Cherry needed a bit of assistance to get the juices (inks) flowing, but the Aquamarine started right up. This test isn’t exhaustive – I really should let the new Retro sit for more than a week and see what happens, but so far I’m impressed.
Overall, I think the changes Retro has made to the Tornado Fountain Pen are great. The section was never a deal breaker for me, but I think many people will really like the new contoured grip. And I’m always a fan of more nib choice; making it a Jowo #6 nib opens up a lot of possibilities. I still think that Retro 51 is a fun brand and makes a great fountain pen for those newer to the hobby looking to upgrade their pen experience!
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