"Füllfederhaus M. Störtz, Graz" No. 4 Safety
This pen belongs to Tom Westerich - founder of one of the most respected online vintage pen stores - penboard.de - and he is regarded as one of the most skilled custom pen makers in the world.
During its early years, Montblanc - then, Simplo Filler Pen Co. - was not an established brand in the market. Also, it seems that in the early 1900s, retailers held more brand power than manufacturers. This meant that stationers sometimes demanded pen manufacturers to place the retailer's brand name on pens instead of their own. Montblanc probably found itself processing large quantities of such orders, and hence set up a separate company - Excelsior Füllhalterwerke - to take on such production separately from its own branded products. Stationer brands included Tatra, Quail, Der Kimmelstiel, Gidania, Kadewe, Stöffhaas, and many more. It is important to not confuse stationer brands with sub-brands like Reflex, Monte Rosa, and Astoria (later years) that were actually made and marketed by Montblanc under their brand name. Some of these pens looked identical to MBs that were in production at the time. But, some looked different, like the Waterman-safety inspired design that we see in the pen featured here.
Notice the similarity in design with this No. 42 1/s Waterman Safety. Pic credit --> Peyton Street Pens (link)
The information on which models of these stationer brands were made by MB and which were not made by MB is not clear. In fact, this particular pen is not even featured in reference books, but it is suspected to be MB-made by some of the most knowledgable dealers in the world. Osman Sümer explained to me that this pen's design is very clearly similar to the "diplomat" series that we know MB designed, especially with the tuning knob having the imprints of the nib and size, "that is a true sign of an MB product".
The pen under review was made for the stationery store Füllfederhaus M. Störtz, as can be seen from the barrel imprint. The store was founded in 1918 by typewriter dealer Michael Störtz in Graz, Austria. The store is functional even today, though it is no longer owned by the family of M. Störtz. The website boasts about having the largest selection in pens in Austria, including many brands in addition to Montblanc. They also provide repair services and claim to have great expertise in this area.
I would date this No. 4 pen to the 1920s, given the facts that (a) the same design was produced by Waterman during that time (b) the MB nib on this pen was made during that period. The "F" imprint on the turning knob of the pen indicates its fine tipped nib.
I'd expect these pens to be difficult to come by, but there are a few currently for sale online. In fact, the pen featured in this article is for sale as we speak (link). I have no affiliation to the sale listing, I am sharing just in case it is of interest to our readers.
Safety fillers are a wonderfully intelligent filling system if you ask me! The nib unit rests inside the barrel when the pen is capped. After uncapping, a turning knob at the bottom of the barrel forces the inner shaft holding the feed and nib to extend and expose the nib from the section of the barrel. As it extends, the nib unit locks its collar against the section so that no ink can flow out of the barrel. This made it "safe" from ink leaks. And, because of the fact that the nib unit is always submerged in ink, this pen was advertised as never suffering from hard starts!
The video here shows the workings of a Montblanc safety mechanism from a tier-3 pen made in the 1930s. The barrel was custom made for me by Francis Goossens, and it allows us to see exactly how the helix rod and nib unit engage with each other and create a seal with the section when extended, also allowing us to visualize how the nib unit sits in ink and is thereby primed at all times and ready for writing. This safety mechanism is a little different from the safety mechanism on the pen under review, but, it gives you the general idea of how this system works.
Disassembled Waterman 42 1/2 safety pen
Custom Montblanc safety filler
For bibliography, see Resources page -->link