Masterpieces 1924 to 2004

Pictures from Osman Sumer´s collection

Montblanc no. 20 silver and goldFirst versions of the Meisterstück 1924






First Picture shows  from Osman Sumer´s collection:

Two precious versions of the Masterpiece pushknobfillers model 20 – from sterling silver and solid gold. Both show the large white star made from enamel. 

Next picture shows the two biggest versions of the first Meisterstück pens launched 1924. The Safetyfiller pens Model 45 and 35 are equipped with the famous snake clips, which could be bought separately as an
accessory. (Osman´s collection)

Meisterstück – Masterpiece – Capolavoro – Chef D´Oevre, every market did have the Meisterstück imprinted in its own language. The name was born as a message and a marketing concept in 1924 to last till today. Many different models, following technical development and fashion were made. Let me try to roughly outline the pattern. Most impressive pens were pictured mainly from the collection of Dr. Osman Suemer and the Montblanc Museum. Nowadays, every masterpiece leaving the factory is uniformly called Meisterstück all over the world.
16 years after its foundation in 1908 Montblanc already had had its first major crisis, due to the difficult post-war period
 with hyperinflation and economic crash in Germany. Montblanc´s sales had already recovered, but the customer seemed to ask for cheap products only. It was hard to sell high value pens at good prices. The faith in longlasting products seemed to have vanished after the years of crisis and inflation. As a response by means of marketing Montblanc presented the Masterpiece – Meisterstück in 1924. The pens named thus always were the top of the range, of highest standards and equipped with a lifetime warranty.
The name promised quality made by master craftsmen and the lifetime warranty did successfully point out a long-lasting product. Masterpieces, against all trend to the cheap item immediately were a big success.

The thirties´ Masterpieces

Montblanc pushbuttonfillersMontblanc 124 and 128 pushbuttonfillers







Picture no. 1 shows Pushbuttonfillers no. 25 coral red and lapisblue on blue and a safetyfiller no. 35, already with cap bands. The advertisement underneath promotes a special exchange offer from 1932. A beforehand cheaply bought no. III series pen could be traded for a Meisterstück pen at just the price difference.

Picture no. 2 shows a blue on white celluloid Meisterstück K122 pushknobfiller and a model 124 E from black hard rubber with rose pattern guillochee, and a 126 PL.

Masterpieces from 1924 to today have changed dramatically in design and filling systems but they all have some aspects in common. They always featured the most advanced version of the filling system, a bigger and more prescious gold nib and the most beautiful white Star.

It started all with a bandless black safetyfiller pen, models 20 to 45. The model number did also indicate the pen´s price.
Cap bands were added to the design around 1928 to follow the fashion of the time. These pens originally were sold without clips, but you could acquire clips separately. It was not before 1930, that Masterpieces were sold with clips permanently attached to the cap. At the same time, the Meisterstück nibs got the imprint 4810, the height of the Montblanc mountain.
In 1929 the pushknobfiller was introduced. While safety fillers did have ink filled directly into the barrel, the reservoir with the pushknobfillers was a rubber bladder, inserted into the barrel, to be squeezed like the Parker pushbutton fillers. The important improvement, which promoted the new pens to become Masterpieces was the fact, that the blind cap was permanently attached to the barrel und served as a push knob. They system deleted a major disadvantage of the Parker pushbutton filling system, that you had to unscrew the blind cap to operate the button underneath.  The models were still numbered from 20 to 45 just like the safety fillers which were still sold way into the thirties.
Lever fillers made by Montblanc date back to 1922 but were never really marketed with much enthusiasm. Thus they are almost as rare as pneumatic fillers or other exotic filling systems. Meisterstück leverfillers can be found as well.
There is an interesting aspect about coloured celluloid pens. These were already fashionable quite a while, already back in 1924 Sheaffer and Parker did sell their first celluloid pens. However, German consumers up to today tend to follow the monochrome taste like Mr. Ford promoted it for his cars. Black! Montblanc at the beginning strictly resisted the demand for colour. They considered the new celluloid to be of bad quality, inflammable, just good for 3rd class pens. Fully according to this opinion, around 1928 the first colored celluloid pens were marketed as III series pens. But quickly afterwards, in 1929, the first colored Masterpiece pushknobfillers were offered for sale. Among these, Lapislazuli, Jade green, black and pearl colours nowadays are the most sought after models. Black hard rubber pens curiously are harder to find than coral red pens. Model names for the pushknobfillers of this period are 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45. These are similar to the ones of the safety filled Masterpieces, and design as well followed the composition of the early safety filler pens.
In 1935 Art Deco was applied. The pens became more cylindrical, with a flat cap top and the special clip was introduced, which is best known as the “Hemingway Clip”, as it has been reproduced in 1992 as the first writer’s edition of the series. This design for the first time did show the two-tone gold nib, which then became essential part of the classic Masterpieces till today.
First models were introduced as safety fillers (models 102, 104, 106) and pushknobfillers (models 122, 124, 126, 128, 129). Interesting to see that at a time, when others already sold piston or sac filled pens only, Montblanc still offered safety fillers. Was it a clear sign of the successful sale of this filling system, or was it again a proof of a more conservative attitude?


Montblanc pistonfillers first generation.

Picture shows Masterpieces 139, 136 and 134 from around 1938. All e pens are feature hard rubber caps and celluloid barrels. The model 139 shows the tiny silver rings and the big rolled gold cap band at the center.

A simple piston filling system was introduced around 1934, again first a III series pen. Then in 1934, an advanced piston filler was developed and patented in 1936.  It was in 1992 during the First Hamburg Pen Show that I met an old ex Montblanc employee, who proudly announced that it was him the guy who had to produce the first working prototype of this telescopic filling system. This system did grant a much higher ink reservoir. Thus technically improved, and working with a direct piston, it was offered as a Masterpiece system. The second class pens, models 234 ½ , 236 e.g. were offered with a one step metal mechanic and 3rd class pen got the simple hard rubber piston filler mechanism. Some 2nd class pens were also equipped with the telescopic piston, but the difference to the Masterpieces was maintained, as this piston turning knob was hidden under a blind cap. With exception of  the old Masterpiece lines of Pushknobfillers and safety fillers from then on, 1935,  Masterpiece fountain pens were always offered as pistonfillers. Just some exceptions were made: As a reaction to market demand, Masterpieces are also being offered as cartridgefillers since 1970.
Masterpiece pistonfillers of the late thirties and forties did follow the Art Deco design of the pushknobfillers 122, 124 ecc.
Famous models are 134, 136, 138 and 139.  While the smaller version did still feature one large cap ring only, the biggest of the line, be it the 129 pushbutton filler or the 139 piston filler did already show the well known 3 cap bands, two tiny rings made from solid silver and one big rolled gold cap band in the centre, with Montblanc Masterpiece or Montblanc Meisterstück engraved.
Early versions of this series feature hard rubber cap tops, cap sleeve and turning knobs. Later version first were made with celluloid cap sleeves. Up to this moment, all the ivory white stars were made from casein. Then around 1943, the pens were fully made from celluloid – even the ivory white stars. As an exact replica of the 139 Masterpiece the Hemingway limited edition pen was launched in 1992.

The 50ies - Streamlined times

Montblanc 146 pistonfillersLate 50ies versions of the pistonfillers






Picture no. 1 shows s pale green striped 146, and black celluloid models 144 and 149. 

Picture no. 2 : Models 644 with green striped barrel and 744 fully made from rolled gold. The clock underneath promoted model 744N with the wing nib, as it was introduced 1958.

A drastic change in design was made around 1950. First studies to develop a new Meisterstück design started in 1948. The complete line was streamlined, simple third series pens as well as the Masterpiece line. For some  years, cylindrical 13x Masterpieces and streamlined 14x Masterpieces were sold simultaneously.  All the models 14x were now being offered with three cap bands as well as many transitional versions of the 13x pens.
Precious versions of the 14x celluloid pens were introduced in 1950, with metal slip caps. First versions of these models featured the classic twotone gold nib but later on, after 1958, these models were sold with the newly developed wing nib. These wing nibs were also used for the following Masterpiece generation, but mostly hidden in the gripsection.
The biggest of the line, model 149, was produced without interruption from 1950 till today. It got the name Diplomat. The smaller models 142, 144 and 146 however were discontinued around 1960 and replaced by modern 1960ies designs.

The Modern times

A group of Cardinals´ hat pens







Picture shows a set of Meisterstück no. 12 with the matching pix pencil and ballpoint.
The Masterpiece pistonfillers no. 12 and 14 with the triangular shaped cap bands (nicknamed “cardinal´s hat” and the hooded nib is supposed to be a design of Count Goertz, a designer who at that time did also develop the legendary BMW 507.
However, market for high value fountain pens did calm down significantly, we could name it a silence, initiated by the ballpoint pen.
With the beginning of the 80ies, the market for precious pens revived. The Masterpiece 146 was relaunched in 1974 and marked the beginning of a new era for fountain pens. No longer a real instrument for dayly office work, prestigious writing instruments now became a luxury accessory. Quickly the Meisterstück product range was expanded. From 1988 onward shop in shop solutions and Boutiques were developed.  In 1989, the first shop in shop solution was implemented into Hamburg´s biggest pen shop with tremendous success. In 1990 the first Montblanc Boutique opened in Hong Kong. Quickly, the number of Boutiques and shop in shop “Corners” quickly grew. To match their demand for products more than just pens, new products were launched. Meisterstück leather goods, Paperware and desk accessories were the first new products, presented. All these items became part of the Meisterstück product range.
As a most important landmark, in 1997 the first Meisterstück wristwatch was presented to the public by Montblanc Montre SA based in Switzerland. First the wristwatches very much resembled the aesthetics of the Fountain pens. Then slowly the watches got their own mix of colours and material. A steel sports chronograph introcuced in ? then in reverse influenced the Meisterstück fountain pens. Back in 1997 a steel watch seemed unthinkable to match a black Masterpiece, now a solid steel Solitaire Fountain became a perfect match for the watch.
For generations now, the black 149 Meisterstück is the emblem for fountain pens and the brand Montblanc. It was created 26 years after the first Meisterstück was sold as a safety filler. Now, this 149 is surrounded by a huge family of Masterpieces with most different use. What will be symbolizing the brand Montblanc 20 years from now? A watch, a lighter? A cufflink? Or still the fountain pen Meisterstück 149?

This article was written and photographed by Tom Westerich, and first published in STYLUS 2004.

Thanks for the help and contribution of Osman Sumer, who made all these beauties available for photography.