Montblanc Lever Fillers

Montblanc made lever fillers for a short period between 1921 to 1929. It is speculated that Montblanc abandoned the lever system to distinguish itself from other (mostly American and British) brands, but also to deal with the common issues with cracks in the barrel, broken lever arms, and the fact that levers are prone to catch the rim of the jacket or shirt pocket or a fold and will lift a bit with the consequence of a leaking pen. The lever filler was replaced by the more robust push-knob fillers used for the Meisterstück series.

But, because they were only produced for a few years, lever filler pens are considered collectible today. While the mechanism found on Montblanc lever fillers is fairly typical, there were quite a few design variations of the actual lever on the barrel. The pens came in different sizes too. Collectible Stars I shows examples of lever fillers in 00, 0, 1, 2, 4, and 6. Different clips are available, as are colours, materials nibs, etc. These characteristics serve as hints to the precise period during which the pen was manufactured. 

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The lever filling mechanism was already introduced and popularised by W. A. Sheaffer in the US in 1908, but it seems to have taken some time before Montblanc decided to use it too. The lever filling technology was adopted and iterated many times by different companies over the years, but the basic principle was the same as depicted in the Sheaffer patent diagram.

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1920s German advertisement claiming the materials used on the pens pictured were not the same low-quality celluloid used in other brands (and was instead non-flammable galalith). Pic Courtesy: Tom W. 

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1920s French catalogue... The Chef d'oeuvre (Meisterstück) advertised as "unbreakable and non-flammable", in "black and other beautiful colours', with 18C "indestructible" nib!

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1928 French advertisements 

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Danish instructions manual

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1920s Stöffhaas pricelist features the "self filler (lever)"

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Old boxes showing the many MB lever designs

While there are far too many variations in models to cover through this article, let's take a look at some examples of the lever filler...

Let's start with the tiny No. O size model. The size O measures only about 10 cm. That is tiny, even though it's not the tiniest. The standard line - not Meisterstück - lever fillers were more commonly available in black, but customers also had the options of mottled red and coral red. The mottled red pens command far higher value amongst collectors today, and the coral red even more.

This simple black hard rubber No. O was made between 1922 and 1925. See how the No. O compares to a celluloid 149, No. 1 ReN safety, and No. 2 octagonal safety. 

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The nib and lever design on this mottled red No. O tells us it was made in c. 1925. See how it is dwarfed by a 139! This pen belongs to Ariel Z.

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Yet another size O, except this is the "long" version. Lever filler sizes came in the regular and long variants.

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The size O long, with a set of lever fillers requiring restoration... From left to right - No. 1, 1, 2, 2, and 4. Notice the ones with missing levers in the middle have Waterman-style lever mechanisms.

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No. 2 lever filler made in c. 1925 considering the nib and lever design, belonging to Toltotoll

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Next, we have a rather beautiful octagonal shaped 18 kr (rolled gold) hieroglyphic pattern overlay in size 2. This particular pattern in overlay is not common. I could only find three reference to it... two in Collectible Stars I - one on a no-name sub brand model made by Montblanc with a push button mechanism, and the second on a propelling MB pencil in silver. Another reference can be found in Montblanc Diaries on a 14kt MB pencil. All three examples show a metal cap top, and the MB stars in enamel. I believe the correct nib on a fountain pen made during this period would be the "14 carat" or "Motblanc" imprint with a "2" inside an MB star. 

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No. 2 18kr overlay belonging to Toltotoll

Moving up in size, we have the No. 4 and the largest size in lever fillers - the No. 6. The designs stay similar to the smaller sizes.

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No. 4 size lever demonstrator pen

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No. 4 size dummy pen made in BHR and fitted with a simple brass nib with no imprints

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No. 6 with the earlier stright lever, and No. 4 with the later  flat lever. Both pens belong to Ariel Z.

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No. 6 in BHR and red mottled with the later flat lever, belonging to a private collector.

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Let's move on from the straight and flat lever dsigns to some other variations...

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The No. 1 (Long) has a lovely clip that was made for only a few years between 1927-30, and the lever design is from 1928-30. The pen belongs to Ariel Z.

No. 6 in BHR with the later lever and clip design, belonging to a private collector.

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A very rare No. 2 deskpen, in red mottled hard rubber, with the later lever design and No. 20 size and design nib, belonging to Azad B. Pic Courtesy: Tom W. (penboard.de)

Lever fillers were made for the "Meisterstück" series too. In 1924 Montblanc introduced the "Meisterstück" series which was intended to be the company's top-of-the-line offering. At that time, the pens were numbered based on their price. So, No. 20 meant that it cost 20 Reichsmark (RM) which was the currency in Germany at the time. The No. 25 meant it cost 25RM and so on. The smaller numbers meant that the pens cost less but also that they were smaller in size. The No. 20 and 25 were amongst the smallest pens in the line up at 11.7 cm and 12.8cm capped, respectively. The largest in the Meisterstück series was the No. 45, but I have not personally seen any lever fillers in that size - I have seen pushknob and  safeties only (see examples here --> No. 45 Mottled Red, No. 45 Black).

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This No. 25 "Masterpiece" in coral red was made between 1928-30. It has a 18C nib which was the minimum requirement of the French market, and so the nib could be a replacement. It has a teardrop clip with cap rings, but different clips are possible and acceptable. This pen belongs to Ariel Z.

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This No. 20 "Masterpiece" in Azurite blue was made between 1928-30. It has the ball clip which was made for only a short period between 1929 and 1932 - one of my personal favourite designs. This pen belongs to Ariel Z.

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No. 20 Masterpiece (Meisterstück) for the Danish market, in coral red colour, with the later lever design and ball clip. This pen belongs to a private collector.

Notice that the examples above have "Masterpiece" and not "Meisterstück" imprinted on their caps. This means they were made for export to an English speaking country. Similarly, pens from this series that were made for Italy were imprinted with "Capolavoro", and those made for the French market said "Chef D'œuvre". They all mean the same thing i.e. Masterpiece. 

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No. 20 "Capolavoro" (Meisterstück) for the Italian market, in Azurite colour, made of galalithe, with the later lever and clip design. This pen belongs to William S.

Regarding the construction of the lever system, in most MB lever pens the lever arm is attached to the barrel with a circular steel spring C-ring in a groove in the interior barrel wall. This can make ot quite complicated to restore especially after a bit of corrosion. But, there are a few examples also of levers fixed in a lever box like Waterman style. One example is the lever that has a star at its end but no "Montblanc" imprint. The other example is seen on a very rare lever design found in a French market model. 

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A very rare BHR lever design made in the early 1920's seen on few MBs in France, pictured in the book Une Affaire de Stylos by Pierre Haury (1990) p. 85. 

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German design with the star logo on the lever end (but no MONTBLANC imprint on the lever arm), pictured in Collectible Stars I, p. 44.

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link