During this period of lockdown, I have been looking back over my fountain pen accumulation. This now spans a period of some 50 years. A number of my pen purchases have been part of a recurring pattern, of wanting a new special, or “best” pen, as a trusty companion for life that would be a step up from what I had at the time.
This would generally be a black pen with a gold nib. Hence, certain milestone purchases have been a Parker 75 Laque, a Sheaffer Connoisseur, a Cross Apogee, a Lamy 2000, a Pelikan M800 (in this case, blue stripe with black cap) a Montblanc Meisterstuck 145 Classique and an Aurora 88 (black with a gold plated cap).
With hindsight, it is obvious that none of these signalled the end of my journey of pen buying. Rather, they were like waymarks along the path, some leading to dead ends and others to a seemingly endless onward journey. Sometimes, when you are on a walk up a hill, it is useful to meet someone who is coming down who can tell you how far it is to the top and what you will find when you get there.
I recently got out my Cross Apogee. I remember buying it, in around 2006 or 2007 with a slightly dizzy excitement at spending as much as £100.00 (which is what it cost then, rather more now). The pen looked very handsome in the glass topped counter of the department store.
This Apogee is a metal bodied pen, with a gleaming black laquer finish. It is supposedly superior to the Bailey, as it has an 18k gold nib. There is a sprung metal pocket clip, with a sharp point, like an arrowhead. The cap is snap-on, secured by a raised rim at the base of the section. The broad cap ring, reads on the back, “CROSS, EST 1846”
The pen is comfortable to hold, by virtue of the wide girth and the absence of any cap threads or step between barrel and section. Uncapped, the pen measures around 127mm. The cap can be posted deeply and securely, to increase the length to 144mm. It weighs around 44g capped, or 26g uncapped.
The barrel tapers to finish in a shiny plated metal finial. Removing the barrel, the cartridge or converter metal housing is imprinted with a date code, in my case 0805, being manufactured in August 2005. I particularly enjoy having a date on my pens. The Apogee takes Cross proprietary cartridges, or else the screw-in converters.
The nib is attractively decorated with CROSS, 18k 750 and with lines running down each side, perhaps to suggest the vanes of a feather, which ties in with the arrowhead style of the pocket clip. The nib grade of M for medium is found on one side of the nib, rather like on a Sailor or a Pilot nib.
In the event, I did not take to this pen, which was disappointing. First, I recall being troubled about the degree of lateral wobble in the pocket clip. I appreciated that it was designed to rock up and down but the side to side movement was, I felt, possibly a defect. However this issue does not bother me at all now.
The greater problem was one of ink flow. Once filled from a bottle, it seemed that the pen might not always make it to the end of a page of A4 paper without suffering from ink starvation. I never discovered the reason for this. I lost patience with the pen and put it away. Getting it out again a few years ago, armed with a little more experience in nib-wrangling, I examined the nib and feed under a loupe but all looked normal to me and I could not work out why it would not keep writing. The nib and feed are friction fit.
Recently, (after some success in tuning the nib of my Lamy 2000 to my liking) I got out the Apogee and cleaned the nib and feed. Under a loupe, all certainly looked well. The nib has a tiny gap between the tines, right down to the tipping which usually indicates a good flow. I filled it with the nicely behaved Waterman Serenity blue. The pen did keep going for a full page of A4, but then after being stood for just a few minutes in a pen cup, it exhibited hard-starts. I tried inking it with Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz, an “Extra Soft Ink” to see if this might help. Trying again for the full-page-of-A4 test, the pen kept going but after then standing the capped pen upright in a pen cup for 20 minutes, it hard-started again and needed several good shakes. This pen does not like to be stood up. It seems that the ink all drains away from the nib. My inexpensive Cross Bailey Light pens never have this problem.
I looked on Amazon and read some of the varied reviews of the Apogee. It seemed that others had also encountered problems with ink flow on this pen. If any readers know the reason for this and how to solve it, I would be interested to hear from them in the comments below please!
It is not realistic to expect that every pen we buy will be fantastic. For anyone wanting a high end Cross pen, I would recommend perhaps trying a Townsend over the Apogee. Also, although quite a bit more expensive, there is the flagship Peerless, of which I have read good reports, although I have not owned one.
I can conclude, at least for me, that the Cross Apogee was not to be the pen purchase of a lifetime. As to where my pen journey leads, I am beginning to suspect that it will eventually bring me back to where I first started, with a simple pen that works well, like a Cross Bailey Light, for example. This has become my office pen over recent months and which I have found more dependable than the costly Apogee.