A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Review: Cross Autocross Double Brown Pebbled Leather Pen Case

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
What the heck am I doing reviewing another product that is no longer in the manufacturer's line-up? Some people might call it procrastination; I prefer to think of it as letting the ideas for the review percolate in my head until they are ready for publication. In any event, I don't think the delay makes much difference in this instance. I bought this case through Amazon in Spring of 2010, and I'm pretty sure that even then it was no longer available through Cross. But you can still find these from time to time if you look around, so I figured I'd do the review before these disappear completely. (Some tips and links for finding them later in this post.)

Anyway, on to the review.

This case appealed to me because it seems relatively unique and an improvement over the typical pen case. Most of the cases I'd run across seemed to have the leather flap that goes over the tops of the pens and then gets tucked under a strap to stay in place. Those cases typically have the pen sleeves visible, almost like the leather had been shrink-wrapped around the pens. You know the ones I'm talking about. (If not, click here for an example.) No offense to anyone that has or sells cases like those, but I find them terribly ugly, and they make me think of cigars more than they make me think of pens. Also, it seems like it would be a pain to thread that leather flap through the strap.

This case, as you can see, has a nice, smooth exterior (i.e., no visible pen sleeves) and a convenient snap closure. The holes in the leather, which cover the inner flap and most of the back, make me think of racing gloves or the leather on a steering wheel in an expensive sports car.

Everything about this design says "sleek" and "fast" to me. Honestly, it gives me a little thrill every time I pull it out of my breast pocket. While it is certainly handsome and likely to get a reaction around a conference table crowded with Bic Stic users, the thrill I get is not from impressing others (I've sworn off pen snobbery, remember?), but from . . . well, it's a really cool pen accessory! Isn't that enough? (Besides, you'll only impress some people; the rest will think you're eccentric for even carrying your pens in a case, and they'll think you're absolutely insane when they find out what they cost. Or they'll just think you're trying to show off.)

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Levenger Golden Tortoise True Writer and Waterman Expert in the case
There is plenty of function to go with this case's style. The snap closure makes for very fast opening and closing. Only one snap shows when the case is closed. At first, I thought that gave the case a somewhat off-balance look, but it serves a purpose: with the case closed, you still know "which way is up" — the nibs are at the same end of the case as the snap, so it's easy to know that you are placing the pens in your pocket nibs up. There is a flap  that covers the top of the pens to keep them from sliding out. Curiously, almost none of the stock marketing photos I've seen for this case show the flap going over the pens.

Though you wouldn't know it from these pictures, the sleeves are quite tight when the case is new, making it difficult to remove and put away your pens. I try to put only threaded-cap pens in it, because the fit is so snug (even on slim pens) that it's easy to pull a snap-cap off when trying to remove the pen. I imagine the pockets will stretch out over time and be more snap-cap friendly, but I doubt they will ever get so loose that your pens are in danger of scraping against each other.

Presentation is a mixed bag.  The hinged box with elastic strap is utilitarian but lacking elegance. Yet, open the box and you find the case inside a satin-like fabric sleeve, a touch you'd expect to find in a fancier gift box.

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Presentation: nicer on the inside than the outside

My only beef about the case is that the leather seems to wear rather quickly. I know bright shiny leather never stays that way (at least, not without a lot of tender loving care), but I am already seeing some significant cracking, and I don't think I've had this case out of the box more than half a dozen times. (I only use it when I'm wearing a suit.)

Cross Autocross Pebbled Leather Double Pen Case
Close-ups of leather wear
This is quite a handsome and functional case. I paid only $25 for it new through a seller on Amazon, which I consider to be quite a deal, but I typically see it listed for $35-$40. Amazon had one of these left in "red" (burgundy), one in silver, a single-pen version and a 3-pen version. (It appears the 3-pen version only has loops inside, rather than sleeves.) Try this Google search, and you'll find eBay listings, too. Or, you could just go with Cross's current line-up, in which the cases are not quite as sleek as this one but still feature the holes (I know there's got to be a better name for that race-car leather look) and an easier closing mechanism than most other cases (magnetic flap rather than a tuck-in flap).

As usual, more pictures at the Flickr photo set for this review.


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