top of page

Montblanc Umsteck-Halter (Eyedropper)

Eyedroppers might represent the simplest of pen designs ever made, building on L.E. Waterman's patent in 1884There are no moving parts and so nothing to break or restore or replace over time. One simply unscrews the section and drops ink into the barrel. Then, a little silicone grease on the section threads before reassembly, and done! Eyedroppers often suffered from burping and leaking, and so they were eventually abandoned for higher-tech options like safety pens, levers and pistons.

Screenshot 2024-04-27 at 7.29.04 PM.png

1884 L.E. patent for fountain pen with eyedropper filling system

IMG_9723.JPG

Montblanc eyedropper filling mechanism

Pic Credit: http://www.collectiblestars.com/

Eyedroppers were amongst the first filling systems made by Montblanc. In 1909, the Simplo Filler Pen Co. introduced the "Umsteck-Halter" or eyedropper series in its first ever published catalogue. Eyedroppers changed shape and form over time but endured as a filling system in Montblanc's range of pens till the late-1920s.

IMG_9768.JPG

c. 1908 "The Simplo Pen" No. 4 from my personal collection

P1010992.JPG

c. 1911 Montblanc No. 1 eyedropper

Pic Credit: Kawuska

Vintage Montblanc Eyedropper

Eyedroppers (Umsteck-halter) and safety fillers (Sicherheitshalter) are often confused with each other. But, they are not one and the same. The two are similar in the way that ink is dropped into their barrels directly. But, safety pens were a technological advancement on the plain eyedropper because they allowed for the nib to extend and retract to create a more reliable seal and prevent ink leaks when capped. Whereas eyedroppers were simple fixed nib and section pens. 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.

Mid-1920s Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper from my personal collection

oh13_edited.jpg

Mid-1920s Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper

Pic Credit: Pennoob

Inner working of Montblanc safety filler
1CD19E4D-3670-474C-A7C4-436FB0A24BC4.jpe

The inner workings of the Montblanc safety filler

In this article, we will look more closely at a couple of different umsteck-halter designs by Montblanc. 

Screenshot 2024-05-25 at 8.00.54 PM.png

Patent No. FR-379615, applied in 1907, by Eugen Hahn, August Eberstein. "Fig 1" shows the first Montblanc eyedropper - "The Simplo Pen"

Source: Fountainpen.it

Screenshot 2024-04-28 at 1.06.22 PM.png
Screenshot 2024-04-28 at 1.06.04 PM.png

1909 Montblanc catalogue showing "The Simplo Pen" eyedropper

A patent filed by E. Hahn and A. Eberstein in 1907 (link), on behalf of Simplo Filler Pen Co. (later to become Montblanc), shows a drawing of the first ever eyedropper made by Montblanc (see "Fig 1"). The first catalogue published by the company, in 1909, presents this model as "The Simplo Pen" - an eyedropper available in five different sizes. The pens were made from black hard rubber with chasing, as per the catalogue. However, there are examples in smooth black hard rubber, and marbled red too (pictures below). Notice the red dome on the cap? The idea of coloured cap tops was patented by one of the founders of the company - A. Eberstein (link to patent). The patent states that the coloured cap top indicates to the user which side up the pen must be held in order to avoid ink leaks. The red dome was also found on early Rouge et Noir models. Star logo cap tops in red were introduced from 1914. The Simplo Pen from my collection is a No. 4 size. It has a friction fit cap, rather than screw on threading. Filling it is very simple - unscrew the section and drop ink into the barrel! The nib of this particular example in my collection is rather interesting. It bears the imprint "Warranted 14 KT 1st Quality". According to Collectible Stars I, these nibs were used for a very short period between 1908-1912 and were imported from either the company Collins or the company Perry in the UK. At the time, nibs were not being made in-house and were either imported from the UK or New York. The New York import nibs bear the imprint "SIMPLO PEN CO NEW YORK" as seen in the catalouge. The Simplo Pen is hard to find today, with Collectible Stars I rating it a 11/12 in rareness with an estimated 10 pens existing worldwide prompting the authors of the book to consider themselves "happy to have ever seen one". Curiously, a very similar looking "Rotkäppchen" model exists too, as shown in the picture below. The origins of the Rotkäppchen brand made my Montblanc is very interesting and has been covered in detail in another article on our website (link).

IMG_9754.heic

c. 1908 "The Simplo Pen" No. 4 from my personal collection

IMG_9762.heic
IMG_9765.jpg

The feed has two vent grooves

IMG_9764.heic

Warranted nib made in the UK

Barrel and section

The-Simplo-Pen-7.jpg

The Simplo Pen in smooth black hard rubber.

Pic Credit: Private Collector

Over the years, the company made iterations to the eyedropper design in order to improve its function or make it more efficient to produce. Below is a Montblanc No. 1 eyedropper made in c. 1911. The name "Montblanc" was registered by the Simplo Filler Pen Co. in 1910, making this No. 1 eyedropper one of the first pens produced under the new brand. The white dome was introduced around 1911, and turned into a white star from 1914. Collectible Stars I rates this pen an 11 out of 12 in terms of rarity. This particular No. 1 model was also available in a mottled red colour. The overall length of the pen is 130 mm with a diameter of 9.6 mm. As per Collectible Stars I, the nib on this pen was produced from 1919-25, maybe just a few years later than the rest of the pen's production. This particular No. 1 eyedropper has some pretty cool technology to address the issues of burping and leaking that were common to eyedroppers. Notice the smaller cylinder inside the open barrel. It is believed that the purpose of this inner cylinder was to prevent ink leaks from the barrel-section seam and/or to prevent ink burping due to pressure changes or temperature changes and/or prevent excessive ink rushing into the nib.

IMG_9781_edited.jpg

Two Simplo Pen models, and a Rotkappchen model

Pic Credit: Luis Curvo Sementó

P1010994.JPG
P1010993.JPG
P1010991.JPG

c. 1911 Montblanc No. 1 eyedropper

Pic Credit: Kawuska

IMG_9730_edited_edited.jpg
IMG_9732_edited.jpg

c. 1914 Montblanc No. 2 mottled red eyedropper

Pic Credit: Penboard.de (Tom W.)

Attempts to improve the eyedropper design continued. Below is a Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper that was manufactured in the mid-1920s. It has just one barrel, but notice the small mushroom-looking plug that goes into the bottom of the feed from inside the barrel cylinder. If I push this deeper into the feed then the amount of ink that can make its way from the barrel to the feed is reduced, and vice versa. It's a pretty clever way to regulate ink flow and control ink burping due to pressure changes or temperature changes. This Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper has the classic safety hard rubber styling, the large casein cap top white star, and nib imprints, all found on pens from the 1920s.

Vintage Montblanc Eyedropper
Vintage Montblanc Eyedropper
Vintage Montblanc Eyedropper

Early-1920s Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper from my personal collection

Finally, we have a Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper with the teardrop clip and nib imprints that suggest it was made in the late 1920s. The filling system on this one seems to go back to the simple and straightforward design - no double barrel, no mushroom ink regular, nothing! The new and technologically-superior feeds might have addressed some of the earlier issues with flow, burping, etc. and so no need for more complex barrel or flow regulating mechanisms. 

20240324_185216 2.jpg
20240323_112848_edited.jpg
20240323_112541_edited.jpg
20240323_105551_edited.jpg

Late-1920s Montblanc No. 2 eyedropper

Pic Credit: Pennoob

Do you have a Montblanc eyedropper that is different from the ones shown in this article? Describe the mechanism in the comments below. Let's document as many types as we can!

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link

bottom of page