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Rouge et Noir No. 8

This pen is from the personal collection of Joudenali. Watch out for reviews of truly rare pens from his treasure chest!

It all began with the first line of pens developed by Simplo Filler Pen Co. in 1908 branded "Rouge et Noir" (ReN). This was before the line of pens branded "Montblanc" was released by the company in 1914. The company chose the French-sounding name of ReN to make it an aspirational product to its 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 Rouge et Noir was rebranded to Rotkäppchen or 'Red Riding Hood' (link) for a brief period of time! The ReN was still sold under its original name, but only in Italy and other markets till 1923. 

Montblanc No. 8 safety
Montblanc No. 8 safety

The initial ReN designs did not have the star logo as it was only trademarked in 1913. So, the early ReN had just a full red cap top, as seen in a catalogue from c. 1912. This catalogue also shows size "VIII" as the largest size in the lineup. Other advertisements show the ReN with the red star in c.1914. Considering this, one might expect that the No. 8 ReN with the red star was made sometime between 1914-1923. After 1923, the No. 8 continued production but under the 'Montblanc' brand name with the white cap star (see red marbled version - link and plain black version - link). With regard to dating the pen we have pictured here, I'd say it was made in Hamburg between 1916-23 because the earlier models had horizontal knurling on the cap top and bottom (example here -> link), amongst other features.

Montblanc No. 8 safety

In terms of size, the No. 8 is large with a closed length of 13cm, 14.3cm with the nib extended, 1.5cm thick in terms of barrel diameter, and 18.7cm in length when posted. We know there was a No. 12 ReN (link) and we have examples of the ReN in 'baby' size online too. So, even though I don't have catalogues that show the entire range of red star ReN pens, I think its a reasonable hypothesis that they must have been available in the same sizes as the white star Montblanc safety range that followed it - "baby" OO, No. 0, No 1 No. 2, No. 4, No. 6, No. 7, No. 8, and No. 12. Also, we know that the ReN did come in 'long' and 'short' sizes for some of its models. 


 Now, it is important to note that the red star ReN version of the No. 8 is not found in Collectible Stars I, Montblanc Diary, or Fountain Pens of the World. This makes it a rather rare pen!

Montblanc No. 8 safety
Vintage Montblanc Catalogue

These safety pens have a pin inside the cap which ensures that if the user forgets to screw back the nib into the barrel before capping the pen then it will push the nib in first - preventing any damage that might otherwise have been caused to it by being pushed against the inner top of the cap. This function is explained in an old 1936 catalogue - see pic.

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.

Inner working of Montblanc safety filler

For bibliography, see Resources page -->link

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