I remember vividly the first pen show that the Nibsmith had Leonardo pens stocked at his table. The Momento Zero model caught a lot of people’s attention at that show, and for good reason. I was not immune. It’s one of the only pens I can think of that I purchased immediately when seeing a brand for the first time.
I was impressed with Leonardo then. But what is arguably more impressive is that I’m even more enthusiastic about what the brand is doing now. They continue to release great new materials in the Momento Zero. They’ve added a new filling mechanism. They are even working with makers like Jonathan Brooks to use some of the best handmade resins in the world as a canvas for their pens. (P.S. If you missed the first round of the primary manipulation, the preorders are up at that link for round two!) And now, they are working with the Nibsmith to bring an exclusive #8 nib into the mix.
I have been bugging Dan on a regular basis about when the oversize nib version would drop since Dan first mentioned the possibility to me. He was kind enough to loan the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande in Blue Fiodacqua to me for review, and it was worth the wait.
We will get to the star of the show (the nib of course!) in a minute, but there are a few things about the pen worth noting as well. This was my first experience with Leonardo’s new piston filling mechanism. The highest compliment I can pay is that it reminds me a little of a Pelikan piston mechanism. Pelikan has the best pistons in the business, and I don’t think they will even be matched. But this might be my second favorite piston. The mechanism feels as smooth as it is solid. It’s difficult to put into words what about the build of this pen gives it such a high-quality feel. But when you pick the pen up, you can just tell it’s well-made.
I was honestly surprised by how much I love this material. I think all of Leonardo’s materials look every better in person than they do in photos online, and this one is no expectation. The white portions of the material are a swirly mix of slightly transparent areas and a pearlescent shine. That extra depth to the material is what makes so many of the Leonardo materials special.
Beyond the obviously great materials, it’s the details that Leonardo really does well in my opinion. The metal bands at the end of the body and the section are a really nice touch. The grip section of the Grande is a little longer than that of the Momento Zero, and I think that length is needed to balance the pen. The section tapers a bit, and the thinness of the pen at the point of the grip makes this large pen manageable to use even for someone with small hands like me.
That being said, there’s no getting around the fact that this is a large pen. I show it below compared to everything from a TWSBI Eco to a King of Pen. The body is not as wide as the King of Pen, but it is longer and heavier. Maybe I’ve just gotten used to big pens over time, and others with small hands may not agree- but because the pen is so well balanced, and because the section works so well for me- I have no issues with the size of this pen.
The overall size also makes the Grande a perfect home for the oversize #8 nib. This nib makes even the M800 (second from the left) nib look small.
It’s a big size upgrade from the typical #6 sized nib. What does that size upgrade get you in terms of performance?
Others reported some early issues with early #6 Leonardo nibs, but I can honestly say everyone I have tried has been stellar. Even the steel nibs are truly exceptional, almost to the point where I can’t tell much of a difference between the gold and steel #6 nibs. I would have likely told you to stick with the steel #6 nib for a regular Momento Zero if you asked me at a show. I did for my Momento Zero Blue Hawaii, and haven’t regretted it once.
But a #8 gold nib is a completely different story. Larger sized nibs are where you really start to see a huge impact of gold nibs, and there is really no other nib material that can match the experience.
I’ve waxed poetic at pen shows and on the internet about the 823 nibs. It’s an outstanding daily workhouse pen. This #8 nib takes everything I love about that nib and takes those things up a notch. For anyone who knows how much I adore the 823 nibs, that is really saying something. It’s impossible to communicate the feel of a nib on a page in photos and words, but it’s really the smoothness on the page that sets this type of nib apart.
The pen also has an ebonite feed that is made in-house by Leonardo. Flow can be can an issue when you get up to nibs of this size, but with the ebonite feed the pen has great flow and leans towards the wet side.
Larger nibs tend to write broader lines. This M #8 nib writes about the same line as the Leonardo broad steel #6 nib. So if you want a line true to size, make sure to size down.
Compared to two of my other favorite gold nibs, the oversize #8 is a little softer than the 823 but has less “give” than the Sailor King of Pen that tends to produce a bit of line variation. It’s also a little broader than the M nib counterparts of those pen models.
I was talking with some of my other Desk friends earlier this week, and it was mentioned that the non-Grande Momento Zero is one of the best-built pens you can get in the sub-$200 price range. I definitely agree with that assessment. Beyond that “entry” model, there are a number of upgrade options. I especially appreciate that there are a variety of models with different price options across the range. Even in the larger Grande pens, for example, you can still opt for a steel nib. And the less expensive “captured converter” models are also still available. But if you are going to go big, the Momento Zero Grande with the piston fill and this particular nib checks a lot of boxes for me.
It’s hard to talk about “worth” at the price point of this Leonardo Grande. But looking across the market in this range, I think you get a lot of “bang for your buck” comparatively. This type of nib is not something you usually get unless you are buying a pen like the King of Pen, a Custom Urushi, or an M1000. On top of the nib, you are also getting a pen with an excellent piston filling mechanism and plenty of excellent options when it comes to materials. For me, it hits a sweet spot between build quality, aesthetics, and the writing experience that few other pens can match.
I’m pretty sure Dan sent this to me knowing it would be difficult for me to send back to him! I guess the only question now is whether or not I decide to get a nib grind (included with purchase for this pen) or leave the nib as is. With a nib this good, it makes for a difficult decision.