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Rouge et Noir No. 122

This Rouge et Noir (ReN) was one of the first pens ever made by Montblanc between 1908-10. The nib has an imprint that reads "Simplo Pen Co" because the company's name at that time was "Simplo Filler Pen Co". We cannot read the entire imprint on the nib from this picture, but it should read "New York" at the bottom because Montblanc imported its nibs initially and only started its own production in 1913. Notice that the nib has "2" imprinted inside a circle. A slightly earlier version of this same nib has the "2" inside a triangle, and its timeline is in fact slightly more aligned with the production of the No. 122. The "2" denotes the size of the nib, and in this case, it matches the "122" model of the pen - I am assuming that the last "2" in the model number represents the pen and nib size.

The Rouge et Noir (ReN) was the company's first series of pens. This was before the line of pens branded "Montblanc" was released in 1914. The French-sounding name of ReN was chosen to make it an aspirational product to European clients. I am assuming that French culture was perceived as sophisticated and elite. But, once World War I started, Germany's hostility towards France did not allow the sale of products affiliated with the country. So, the ReN was rebranded to Rotkäppchen or 'Red Riding Hood' for a brief period of time! The ReN was still sold under its original name, but only in Italy and other markets till 1923. 

The section end of this particular pen model is rather interesting. Most catalogues for similar models show the section threads right at its tip like safeties from later years. But, this particular pen has a flared section end and the threads that engage with the cap are actually inside the barrel, as can be seen in this picture.

Vintage Montblanc 122 Rouge et Noir
Vintage Montblanc 122 Rouge et Noir
Vintage Montblanc 122 Rouge et Noir
Vintage Montblanc 122 Rouge et Noir

This pen is from the personal collection of Marcwithac - a generous contributor on FPN and vintage pen collector with exceptional taste!

It is interesting to note that the early full red cap tops were based on a patent by one of the founders of the company in 1907 - A. Eberstein (link to patent). The patent states that the coloured cap top indicates to the user which end of the pen must be held up in order to avoid ink leaks. Further, the patent states that the cap top can be interchanged based on the colour of ink being used, and that is why some blue and green cap tops were made but they are rare to find today! I guess this idea did not catch on - it sounds clever, but it might not have been practical to expect the average user to take the initiative to have several cap tops lying around and match them with their ink change each time. The red cap tops are found in several subtle variations - smoother and more rounded tops, rounded cap tops with black knurled portions, flat cap tops with matching red knurled portions (as in the No. 122 here).

Vintage Montblanc 122 Rouge et Noir

The No. 122 has a safety filling mechanism, where the nib retracts into its barrel before being capped, allowing the section to make a tight seal against the inside of the cap. This innovation was meant to prevent leaks, and so safety pens were often advertised by pen companies as "non leakable". 

You will notice that the No. 122 looks a little different from the MB safety pens from later years. The most notable difference is the sleeve on its barrel which when moved back and forth retracts and extends the pen, respectively. In contrast, the common safety mechanism that became more popular in later years simply required the turning knob at the bottom end of the barrel to be twisted to retract and extend the nib. 

I couldn't find any patent by Montblanc's early designers for the sliding sleeve mechanism, but the 1907 patent that focuses on the coloured cap top invention depicts the sleeve barrel in its diagrams. Apparently, A. Eberstein worked in Boston during the early 1900s when the Moore patent came out, and he might have been acquainted with its designers and owners. This might explain why the No. 122 ReN's technology seems like it was inspired by the earlier patented Moore Non-Leakable pen. The sliding sleeve technology is explained in Moore's 1903 patent, as shown in this picture. 

Vintage Montblanc Patent
Vintage Montblanc Catalogue
Vintage Montblanc Catalogue

The catalogue pictured here from c. 1910 shows a series of pens almost identical in design to the No. 122, but the models bear single-digit names like "No. 2" instead of a three-digit name like "122". Curiously, I haven't been able to find any books or catalogues that show examples of a three-digit number. But, Poul Lund shared with me that he has encountered these pens a few times in the past. 

The catalogue shows that the sliding sleeve safety pens were available in many sizes, from a short No. 2 size all the way to a large No. 7 size. 

Sliding sleeve barrel safety ReN pens are considered extremely rare. Collectible Stars I rates them 11 out of 12 points in terms of rarity with an estimated less than 10 examples to be found today. The pen is so rare that the authors of the CS-I consider themselves "happy to have ever seen one"!

Picture: Collectible Stars I, by Wallrafen & Rösler

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link

Notice the absence of the Montblanc star on the cap top. This is because the star was only introduced in 1914, before which the ReN line had full-red cap tops. During this time, white cap tops were made too, but for the "Montblanc" line of pens. It is said that the star cap top came into design to battle counterfeiters that could easily copy the full red or white cap tops.

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