No. 232 & 232G

The flat tops are such a sophisticated design! I just love the 13x, 23x, and 33x series pens! A catalogue in 1936 presented the 23x series, but only the 234 and 234 1/2. There was no sign of the 232 model. Then in 1937, we see that the 234 has been dropped and only the 234 1/2 is featured. Finally, in the 1938 catalogue, MB introduced the No. 232.

 

The precise manufacture timeline for the 232 is not clear to me, but Collectible Stars I suggests that they were made right until the early 1950s. However, an Italian repair manual from 1956 shows the 232, and so I am not sure if these pens were still being made at the time or if the repair manual was just featuring the model because people might have already owned these pens even if productions had stopped years ago. 

The 232 is the smallest of the 23x models, but it was advertised as medium-sized. Priced between RM. 11.25 to 12.50 in the late 1930s, the 232 - and the rest of the series too - was positioned in between the more expensive 12x or 13x Meisterstück series and the cheaper economy 33x series. Catalogues explained that "the proven quality of this price range (2xx) created the worldwide reputation of the Montblanc brand". The "2" digit in this model signifies the pen was from the second-tier series. The "3" in the model number signifies that it was a piston filler, and the last "2" signifies its nib size.

Quite a lot of variation is found in the 232. In terms of size, there was the medium-sized 232 and also a short 232K version (for kurz) made and advertised "for the ladies hand". We can find examples of early 232s with a fluted clip and the simple diamond clip later on, amongst others. Caps might be short, long, with one band, two bands, or no bands (war time). Nibs were 14c gold if before or after the war, and steel during the war.

Also, some 232s simply have the "232" imprint on their blind caps, while some have "232G". There is lack of clarity over what the 'G' in the model signifies. A 1936 catalogue explains that it means smooth finish. This made sense in the context of the line up of pens presented in that catalogue - many 12x models that had variations in their finish. But, this does not make sense for the 232G because there was only a glossy finish available. In fact, the 1936 catalogue introduced the 234 and 234 1/2 but didn't give it a 'G'. Makes sense. Then what does it stand for on the 232G, or even some 234 1/2 G, L 139 G, 146G, and others? Some believe it means 'goldfeder' for gold nibs in post-war pens (because they used steel during the wartime instead). It's the best explanation we have, I believe.

A 1936 catalogue explaining that 'G' means smooth finish

Finally, another variation found is in the piston mechanism. The early 232 had the telescopic piston which claimed double the ink capacity of ordinary pistons. Catalogues in the late 1930s clearly mentioned this. However, the 1956 repair parts catalogue shows the 232 with the simpler Kontrollfüller piston. I don't know when exactly this switch tool place though. Or why. Because the telescopic piston was still in use till the late-1950s on other pens and it was advertised as a more innovative system. Normal pistons have a single-stage extension and retraction. However, the telescopic piston had a two-stage mechanism such that the second stage would collapse within the other first. You can see the two-stages in action through the transparent replacement barrel I had to make for my wartime 232. This ingenious system meant that the piston itself took up almost half the space of a typical piston inside the barrel, thereby leaving all that extra space for more ink. Unfortunately, it was not the most cost-efficient to produce and was also difficult to maintain, and hence it was abandoned completed from 1960 onwards. You can read more about the telescopic piston mechanism in this interview with master restorer Francis Goossens --> link.

We have two 232s featured in this article, from different periods and with very different features. First is a 232 that belonged to me from the wartime era. This pen was manufactured between 1943-46. I know because it has a steel nib and no cap rings. It seems that during the early years of WWII the German economy was not fully focused on the war, but this changed in 1942 once the new Armaments Minister came into power. Production policies thereafter shifted to a single-minded focus on wartime needs - factories and materials were used primarily for war-time requirements, variations in the design of products were limited and metals were used with great ration. I believe that's why this pen has no cap rings even. Pens made earlier in the war might have switched to non-gold nibs, but I feel like the cap rings took more time to be phased out. 

The nib on my 232 is a beautiful oblique double broad (OBB). It is one of the best nibs I ever had in my collection! You will notice a small chip at the side of the nib. It seems many vintage pens have this chip and it is speculated that it might be due to the regular use of a ruler to draw lines. A rather interesting scar to have!

And here's the second 232 featured in this article - a "232G" that I restored for a collector. Considering its Kontrollfüller mechanism, gold nib, and diamond clip, I would date this pen's production between post-war and till the end of the model's production i.e. 1947 till the early or mid-1950s, since its clip and nib and piston are like the variants shown in a 1956 parts manual. 

The 234 1/2 might be the most popular pen in the series, along with the 236 which is rather coveted by collectors. But, the modest 232 is actually quite a rare find, deserving a spot in any serious vintage MB collection.

The 232 also came with a palladium nib. Notice the fancy "P" on the 4 1/2 and 2 nibs shown in the picture here (thanks to Tom W. for sharing). About a year or so before the war began in 1939, and commodities like gold were considered as critical resources to be conserved and used for direct and indirect war efforts, it is believed that pen companies tried to switch to palladium but very soon that too was prohibited by the government and so companies had to switch to steel. This is why very few c. 1939 MBs are found with palladium nibs. 

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link

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