A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Pen in Black: Review of the Monteverde Invincia Stealth Fountain Pen

Cool Profile

When I first ran across Monteverde's Invincia Stealth Fountain Pen online, I thought it looked really, really, cool. But not quite as cool as the Invincia Titanium. I kept coming back to the pictures at hisnibs.com, where you can see them side-by-side, and my eyes were drawn more and more to the
Stealth. I had just bought two rather expensive pens, so I didn't need to buy this. But I liked the look, the price suggested it better be a pretty good steel-nibbed pen, and so I eventually caved.

I purchased the pen from Norman Haase of hisnibs.com for $64, and the service was great.

First Impressions — and Lasting Ones

Monteverde Invincia Stealth compared to Lamy AL-StarFirst impressions out of the box (which was very nice, by the way): Black. Very, very black. Thick. Heavy. Big Nib. Very large nib. Huge nib. Also black. I like it! Overall, I like the look as much in person as I did in its pictures online. Maybe even a little more, even though it looks thicker "in person" than it does online.

That's important, because I bought this pen almost exclusively for its looks. I didn't even look very hard for any reviews. I'll have more to say about the cosmetics as I evaluate each part of the pen.

I think a few other folks must have been impressed, too. Goldspot Pens said that this is one of the Top 5 Pens of 2010 thus far.

Now, the most negative of my first impressions: posting the cap. Or, rather, the difficulty of posting the cap. I'll cover this in more detail in the "Cap & Barrel" section of the review below.

Style and Finish

The only interruptions in the black finsh
The only parts of the pen with non-black finish
This pen is black, black, black. The only places where the black finish is broken is on the tip of the cap, where you'll find the Monteverde logo, and the cap ring, where you'll find the words "Monteverde USA" directly below the clip and "Invincia" 180 degrees from that. Other than that, Monteverde says the "the cap, barrel, clip and trim" are all "specially coated with 3 layers of durable black lacquer."

I'm not sure I agree with the statement by Monteverde (repeated by almost every retailer, it seems) that its Invincia collection has "a surprising under the radar modern design." Even in an all-black finish, it hardly seems understated. Yes, the black finish makes it less flashy than many other pens, but the triple-layer lacquer finish is so glossy and the nib is so large that it's hard for me to agree that this design is "under the radar." Sure, put it in a dark room, and it's awfully hard to see:

But this pen is hardly "under the radar" in the sense that it won't get noticed. This pen screams "Look at me!" With a cigar-thick barrel, blindingly glossy finish, and a nib that can't be missed, this pen is not shy. In fact, it stands out even against many things I always thought were black, but apparently are not. Take a look at the Stealth against these so-called "black" items, and tell me you'll ever use the word "black"casually again:

Things I used to think were black before I got a Monteverde Invincia Stealth Fountain Pen

The only downside I can see to the finish is that it is so uniform and glossy that nicks and scratches are likely to show more readily on this pen than on a pen with a patterned finish. This is a pen I will not transport unless I have it stored in a case, because I want to preserve that finish! (If  you think you see any blemishes in these photos, however, it's probably just dust.)

Views of the cap on a Monteverde nvincia Stealth Fountain Pen
Cap and clip detail
Barrel end on Monteverde Invincia Stealth
Rings near end of barrel
The stealth effect here is not that the pen itself is under the radar, but that the black finish gives a unified look to the pen that blends its features together. For example, one of the reasons I was hesitant about ordering the pen was that I did not like the look of the clip, especially the exposed rivets at its top and the large ball at its tip. But I hardly notice those details in light of the unifying effect of the consistent black finish. The flat ends of the pen and the rings at the top of the cap and end of the pen also tend to break up the stealthy profile in the abstract, but their effects, too, are mitigated by the all-black finish.

So, while some (including me) might say that the pen would have been stealthier with more rounded ends, a smoother barrel, a sleeker clip, and a matte black finish, this pen has plenty enough stealth feel to please me (and, as readers of my webbie review know, I like stealth looks). I don't mind the glossy finish on this pen at all. It's stealthy but glamorous. "Glam stealth," let's call it!


Did I mention the nib is big?The nib is big. Really big . . . Did I mention that the nib is big?

I don't know if size has anything to do with performance (stop snickering) in this pen. I know it can't generally, because the nib on my Cross Apogee is tiny and writes quite nicely.

If the purpose of the nib size is to make a statement, then this nib succeeds. Nobody around the conference table is going to miss the fact that you're using a fountain pen when you pull this out. The size of the nib also makes it easy for you to see the detail in the engraving on the nib. You hardly have to squint! (Office Supply Geek has a great photo comparing the nib to an aircraft.)

A big nib means a lot more surface for ink to creep, but I noticed very little nib creep in any of the four or five inks I've tried in this pen. Maybe it was the inks, maybe it was the nib. Again, I don't know if this is due to any fine tuning Norman did to the nib or not.

The nib is also black, but not the same black as the rest of the pen. In fact, compared to the rest of the pen, the nib almost looks blue-black. But it nonetheless contributes to the stealth look of the pen.

A big nib also means a big feed. It took me quite a while to rinse clean when I changed inks, so if you dislike the ink changing process, I'd suggest you buy the Stealth only if you plan to keep the same ink in it all the time. (Understandably, I'm on the verge of making black the permanent ink in this pen.) On the plus side, the capacity in the feed should keep you writing for quite a while once the converter runs dry.

The converter . . . what do they make these things in anything but clear plastic? This one's green. Not a big deal, certainly, but I like to see the color of the ink in the converter.

The nib does affect the writing experience, not because of the nib's performance, but because of its size alone. I'll cover that in "Writing Experience" below.

Cap and Barrel

The barrel is thicker than I expected it to be, but that's fine. A lot of the attractiveness of the pen comes from the contrast between its thick barrel and much narrower section. I also like, as a matter of style, the way the section bows in, though it does make the section a little thinner than I'd like it to be.

This is my first pen with a threaded cap (I got this pen long before I got my Noodler's piston filler, but it's taken me a long time to get this review done), and I was a little worried about that, but it turned out not to be a problem. You wouldn't know it from looking at the threads, but it takes less than one full revolution of the cap to remove or replace it, so it's no big deal. In fact, I got used to this threaded cap in an afternoon, yet I've been using my Cross Apogee for more months and still can't get used to how tightly the friction fit cap fits.

The clip is functional, if not sleek. That big ball at the end of the clip is one reason for its functionality, so that look is growing on me.

The big negative - - the un-postable cap.

The mythical Invincia with posted cap

When I first got the pen, I could rarely post the cap securely. I asked Norman Haase if there is a trick to doing so, and he recommended a twisting action as I posted the cap. That worked . . .  sometimes. But posting the cap was still very much a hit-or-miss proposition, and even on those occasions where I got it to post, it was a temporary success. The impact of setting the pen down, even gently, would invariably jar the cap loose. It would even come loose just from moving the pen in my hand. I was hoping that the fit of the cap just needed some working in, but it never got any better. I almost had to use trick photography to get this picture.

On to customer service . . .

So, I called YAFA customer service to exchange the pen. When I told them the problem was that the cap would not post, the service rep said something like, "Yeah, it doesn't post," as if that were the design of the pen! But it was clear that she meant they get that complaint a lot. She might have even said so outright, but it's been so long, I can't remember. (Office Supply Geek said in his review: "When posting the cap it, there is not a completely tight or locked in feel, but the weight of the cap and the depth at which it sinks onto the body leave you confident that it wont come off while you are writing." He must be one of the lucky few.)

Anyway, customer service told me to send in the pen and they would replace it with another. The rep even promised me she would test some out and try to pick one for me on which the cap posts fairly well. Excellent!

Turnaround was swift, I eagerly opened my new pen, and . . . the dang cap would not post. If anything, it was worse than my original one! I have to give customer service an A+ for responsiveness, but every picture you see of this pen on the web shows it with the cap posted, and that seems to be a mirage. I would have given some thought to buying another Invincia (like I said, the Titanium caught my eye), but the un-postable cap ruled that out for me, especially since reviewers of this pen and other Invincia models noticed the same problem, as did a lot of folks at The Fountain Pen Network.

Everybody makes mistakes, but this seems like such an glaring design flaw that it gives me pause about buying other Monteverde pens, too. (Joon says it has very few repair requests for Monteverde products, though.)

Writing Experience

According to the His Nibs website, Norman personally inspects the nib on every pen before shipping. He contends: "About 85% of modern nibs need some adjustment out-of-the-box from the manufacturer for an optimal writing experience," and explains that his adjustments are designed to reduce or eliminate the frustrations that most new fountain pen users have. I don't know if the nib on my pen was in the 15% of nibs that Norman would have left as is, or if the performance is in part, at least, due to his tweaking, but I am quite pleased with the performance.

The pen writes very smoothly with the several inks I've tried thus far. The fine nib seemed to be somewhat of a dry writer with some inks. The medium (which arrived on the replacement pen when I exchanged the original) lays down a nice wet line without getting sloppy. I prefer it over the fine nib because it gives a smoother writing experience.

I've not experienced skipping with any ink. There was, however, some initial hesitation in ink flow if the pen was left uncapped for a few minutes. I don't know how fair it is to expect anything different. Pens that start up instantly have proven to be the exception so far. (I have to do more reading about fountain pen ink flow; I'm a little hazy about that  course in fluid mechanics I took 30 years ago.)

Monteverde describes the nib as "flexible steel," and it's plated with titanium. It doesn't feel particularly flexible to me, but it didn't feel like writing with a nail, ether. Norman writes at his site that the nib sizes on this pen ten to write a little smaller than the same size on most European pens. I'd say the fine nib on my Stealth writes somewhere between the fine nib on my Lamy AL-Star and the extra fine nib on my Lamy Safari.

If you don't like a heavy pen, forget the Stealth. I don't know how it measures up against other metal-barreled pens, but it's certainly the heaviest in my collection: twice as heavy as my Lamy AL-Star, a third again as heavy as my Pilot Knight. Even uncapped, the Stealth is a third again as heavy as the AL-Star. Monteverde's website doesn't say what it's made of, but it simply feels much too heavy to be carbon fiber like the rest of the Invincia line appears to be. My guess is that it's brass.

The heaviness is a new experience for me. Still, I seemed to get used to it pretty quickly, at least unposted. With the cap posted (which is not easy — more about that later), the pen felt quite top-heavy.

Another thing that felt weird at first was the section. This is my first pen with a metal section, and I was wondering if that would make the pen either uncomfortable to hold (I'm still fighting my tight grip) or slippery. Neither proved to be an issue. If anything, the harder surface might unconsciously train me to relax my grip a little. The metal section might prove slippery if you're trying to use the pen outside on an August day in Orlando, but I live on the central coast of California, so the only times I sweat are when I'm nervous (a very rare occurrence) or working out (sadly, an even rarer occurrence). If anything, the difference I noted in the section from those in my other pens is that its concave shape made it seem a touch narrower than some of my other pens. That took more getting used to than the fact that it's metal.

There is one other thing about the design that I am still getting used to. I tend to hold most writing instruments very close to the tip.  The size of the nib on the Stealth and the rings at the bottom of the section make it impossible to do so with this pen. If you are uncomfortable gripping your pen a little further away from the tip of the nib, the Stealth may not be for you. I'm getting used to it, but it makes writing with this pen different than writing with any of my other pens.

Bottom Line 

The Monteverde Invincia Stealth is a great pen for someone looking for their first pen that is past "entry level" in price and usually writes unposted. It writes well, is sharp looking — really, really sharp looking— and costs well under $100 ($80 retail, $64 at hisnibs.com and many other sites). Unless you're turned off by its cosmetics or are even more bothered than me by being unable to post the cap, I think you'll find it money well spent.

For some other reviews, see:

Office Supply Geek
sygyzy (Believe the Lie)



  1. I especially like the photo of it in a dark room... :)

  2. Thanks for the mention, this is a really fantastic write up, so much detail. The cap posting thing can be a slight issue, but I think that there is a difference in the way you use it vs the way I use it that could be adding to your frustration. For the most part I never lay the pen down without putting the cap back on, so I never noticed what happened with the cap if you leave it posted and lay it down.

  3. I think the cat's black expression out-blacks the pen! ha-ha-ha!

    Great review and congratulations on the new addition!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I messed up the previous comment. I wanted to let you know I just found your blog and enjoyed the review. Very well written with some really good information. I've added you to my reader so I can stay in touch. Thanks...

  6. Great review, Note Booker! My understanding (without anything to cite) is that posting may be less common among FP users in some countries. The cap is held or laid on the writing table. I'm a little uneasy about posting a threaded cap, but I've never seen any mention of damaged screw threads either from posting.

    Thanks for the look at "black"--the word. I'm a "reviving penman", and what's startled me is the "black" of black ink, e. g., varies as much as it does. Thanks again. Jack/Youngstown

  7. I have a Jinhao w/ a "big beak" nib. That aggressive design is balanced by the plump torpedo barrel and restrained lacquer finish. I think I ended up characterizing the overall effect as "dignified and statesmanlike". Monteverde seems to have done a somewhat similar balancing act. Jack/Youngstown

  8. I received this pen for X'mas. I don't mind that the pen cap doesn't post - I tend to hold the cap anyways in my right hand (yeah, I'm a southpaw who uses a fountain pen). In any case, I love the way this pen writes and its look is equally stunning.

    I've received a lot of positive comments on it and people are intrigued by the all black lacquer finish.

    A great writing instrument overall! I highly recommend it...

  9. Very lucky to get a good nib :P
    Just got my invincia deluxe in chrome today and the nib is just crap. The feed is crooked and leaks and the nib refuses to start.

    However, it posts just fine so i guess itll make an attractive paperweight ;)