The Visconti Rembrandt v The Pineider Avatar fountain pen.

One of my favourite pen purchases of 2018, has undoubtedly been the Pineider Avatar, in Lipstick Red from Harrods last May. At the time I bought it, I was vaguely aware of the rather similar Visconti Rembrandt but had never owned or handled one.

The pens share a number of similarities. They are both Italian, both from Florence, both I think designed by Dante del Vecchio (but while at different companies), both are resin bodied, steel nibbed, cartridge-converter fountain pens at what you might say, is the “entry level” for the luxury pen market. I recently heard someone describe the Ferrari California as entry level, so it is all relative. They both feature magnetic, pull off caps, and weighty, shiny, plated grip sections.

I looked at the Pineider Avatar in my post Pineider Avatar fountain pen review. At the time, newly besotted with the Avatar I commented that compared to the Rembrandt, I rather preferred the Avatar’s overall flair.

Four months on, I am still besotted with the Avatar. However I was curious to learn more about the Rembrandt and after watching a few reviews, I succumbed to the temptation to buy one. I felt that it would be sufficiently similar to the Avatar for me to enjoy it for all the same reasons whilst being sufficiently different to make it a worthwhile purchase. What finally tipped me over the edge was a range of new colours, including the Twilight (which I chose) with swirls of purple and glimpses of pink and white like you see when you examine the brush strokes of an oil painting up close. I also blame the magnifying viewer which you can move with your mouse over different areas of the pen, as you deliberate feebly on whether to “Add to basket.” I opted for the Medium nib.

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Visconti Rembrandt Twilight

When the Rembrandt arrived, my first impression was that the purple colours did not seem quite so spectacularly vivid in real life. But the pen felt very solid and well made.

It may be helpful to identify a few differences between the Avatar and the Rembrandt, for anyone considering whether to buy one, or both.

Packaging.

The Avatar came in an impressive and unusual gift box, shaped like a writing desk with a fold down top, in dark green faux leather with a padded creamy interior and a set of Pineider stationery inside. The Rembrandt came in a nice, perfectly acceptable but unexciting lidded cardboard box with padded cushion pen rest.

Construction and appearance.

The Rembrandt has the familiar Visconti pocket clip modelled on the Ponte Vecchio, the arched bridge over the River Arno in Florence. It is a hinged clip but needs to be pinched and lifted to slide over a pocket. It has VISCONTI, laser-etched on both sides, not the fancy enamel of loftier versions. The finial has the Visconti “my pen” system whereby you can replace the metal button held in place by a magnet, with a jeweled finial or a pair of initials.

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The Visconti clip and cap ring

The cap band is smooth and well finished and says VISCONTI on the front and MADE IN ITALY in smaller letters on the back.

The barrel of the Rembrandt is cylindrical, without any tapering until the torpedo-like rounding off at the end, with a shiny, plated metal nose cone, for decoration and to stand on in the pen cup, which is a nice touch.

The magnetic force holding the cap on, is stronger on the Rembrandt and more typical of the effort needed to remove most pull-off caps. It feels reassuringly firm. It is also fun that, with the cap resting on your desk, you can offer the pen slowly into it with one hand and watch the cap leap back on. (I rest my case: it’s worth it just for that).

The plated metal grip section has a slightly raised area just before the nib, to stop your finger sliding onto the nib or feed.

The barrel of the Rembrandt has metal threads inside, to screw onto the metal threads of the section. The Avatar lacks metal threads here.

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Metal threads in the barrel of the Rembrandt only.

The Avatar’s finish is of a most gorgeous, deep red, (like cherry flavour cough sweets called “Tunes”) and has light and dark tones like velvet. The clip is a slender, sprung quill shape, easier to slide onto fabric than the Rembrandt (although I carry them in leather pen cases). The Avatar’s barrel also tapers towards to the foot and then rounds off, with no metal furniture added.

The nib.

This is where the real difference lies. The nib of the Rembrandt is much smaller than the Avatar’s, best shown in a photograph. On my pen, it was smooth but slightly dry. Fortunately, I was able to adjust it to open up the tines just ever so slightly and this made a great improvement to ink flow and lubrication which are now ideal for my preferences.

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Pineider Avater (left), Visconti Rembrandt (right)

The Rembrandt’s nib is very good but lacks those long sweeping curves of the Avatar which give it slightly more flex and line width variation and which make the Avatar such a joy to use.

Weights and measurements (approximate),

Pineider Avatar Visconti Rembrandt
Length closed 142mm 139mm
Length open 130mm 122mm
Length posted 161mm 157mm
Weight, total (capped or posted) 27.5g 33g
Weight uncapped 17.0g 20g
Weight, cap only 10.5g 13g

As can be seen, the Avatar is longer when uncapped. However, I still prefer to use them both with caps posted, holding them at the barrel rather than around the metal section. This avoids both the potential issues of slippery sections or of the pens becoming back heavy due to posting and I find them both perfectly comfortable posted. Neither of them has any cap threads, but there is a slight step on the Avatar. The Rembrandt is smoother to hold.

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Visconti Rembrandt (top) and Pineider Avatar.

Writing performance.

Both pens write wonderfully, with good ink flow, smooth and well lubricated for effortless writing. The Avatar feels the more expressive, simply because of the longer nib.

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Pineider Avatar writing sample after receiving CPR (Corn Poppy Red in this context).
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Visconti Rembrandt writing sample.

Cost and value.

Prices may vary depending where you look but I paid £148.00 for the Avatar and £125.00 for the Rembrandt. I felt that these prices were fair.

Conclusion.

So which is better? Which should you buy? I am delighted with them both. Most people, I think, would be happy to own either one of them. It is only when you have used them both that you notice little advantages in one over the other but they are like brothers from different mothers. If pushed I would say that the Rembrandt feels stronger, heavier, more substantial and robust, whilst the Avatar is prettier, longer, more delicate and has a more enjoyable nib. Perversely, I would conclude that the Rembrandt is the better pen but go and buy the Avatar. It’s beautiful. Here is my favourite nib pic again if you are still not convinced.

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The long steel, Rhodium plated nib of the Pineider Avatar. After my early worries about scratching the barrel, I soon decided that the pen felt better with cap posted.

Pineider Avatar fountain pen review.

After attending our monthly pen club meet in London recently, I took myself off to Harrods to have a browse around The Great Writing Room. It is wonderful to see their large selection of luxury fountain pens from so many leading brands.

A new name to me, was Pineider, an Italian brand established in 1774, whose pens and stationery were displayed in a corner of the large room. Under the glass counter, one pen was shown in a gift box which immediately caught my eye as it opened like a miniature writing desk. I asked to see the pen, with an attractive green marbled body and a silver section. However, it had an 18k gold nib and was five hundred and something pounds and so I hastily handed it back.

But next to this pen was a display of, what I now know to be the Pineider Avatar fountain pens, in their four available colour options of saffron yellow, pacific blue, lipstick red and coal grey. These looked very striking, particularly the yellow and the red versions.

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Pineider Avatar in gift box including samples of Pineider stationery.

I must say, I am generally wary of pens with shiny metal sections as they can be slippery to hold. The salesman got the red one out to show me and produced some ink and paper. I fell in love with it pretty much instantly.

As this is a relatively new pen on the market and there do not seem to be all that many reviews or photographs online I will attempt an FPN-style review, save for giving marks out of ten.

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The long steel, Rhodium plated nib of the Pineider Avatar. After my early worries about scratching the barrel, I soon decided that the pen felt better with cap posted.

First impressions, appearance and design.

This is a stunning-looking pen. The highly polished, bright red marbled resin with contrasting silver coloured clip and cap band, with rounded ends, make the pen a joy to hold and to look at. The resin has light and dark shades which give a beautiful chatoyance as you turn the pen in your hands.

The pocket clip (in marine steel) is long and slender, engraved to suggest a quill. It is bowed in the middle and is sprung, giving a good reach to clip onto thicker material if needed although the spring tension is not very firm.

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Distinctive clip in the shape of a quill.

A surprise awaits when you come to remove the cap. It is a pull-off cap, but secured by a magnet inside the cap which meets a metal ring around the barrel. When you cap the pen, offering it up slowly as it nears the barrel, it jumps into place with a little click. The magnetic power is enough to keep the cap in place. Removing the cap requires perhaps rather less force than you might be used to and I would not be overly confident about carrying the pen in a suit pocket for fear that the pen may slip out of the cap.

Another lovely feature is the cap band, which features the name Pineider above a stylised engraving of the Florence skyline recalling to mind the many domes and towers of that beautiful city.

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Better than just writing “Florence” on the cap band.

Under the cap, you have a long, sleek, elegantly shaped nib and some attractive engraving, which includes on closer inspection, the name Pineider in capital letters, written normally along one edge of the nib and in mirror image along the other edge. Put like that, it might sound off-putting but it is only noticeable when examined under a magnifying glass.

The section is of a shiny metal finish, and gives the front end of the pen a pleasant weight, which you notice and appreciate as soon as the cap is removed. The metal section tapers slightly save for the last five millimetres or so where it straightens, to give a barely visible but effective, curved, finger rest, when the pen is held in the writing position.

Construction and Quality.

The pen seems very nicely made and I have no complaints with my model. The resin barrel screws firmly onto the metal threads of the section. Everything fits together well. If looking for faults, you could say that the rim of the cap band is a little sharp to the touch, but this has not been noticeable in normal use. The pocket clip, whilst attractive, looks rather delicate (compared, for example to the mighty and barely lift-able clip on my Montegrappa Fortuna), but this is not a problem for me as I carry the pen in a leather pen case, not a pocket.

Weight and dimensions (approximate).

Capped: 142mm

Uncapped: 130mm

Posted: 161mm

The pen weighs around 27.5g, capped or posted. Uncapped, it is about 17g and the cap alone weighs 10.5g.  These weights are ideal, being neither too heavy nor too light.

The uncapped length of 130mm makes this about the same as a Lamy Safari. But whilst I find the Safari comfortable to use unposted, I much prefer to use the Avatar with the cap posted. Perhaps this is because I hold it higher up, (due to the shiny section) or due to the fact that the barrel tapers slightly, but it feels very comfortable posted. It is long, but the cap is light and does not upset the balance. I worried a little at first about whether posting the cap with its magnet inside, would leave scratches on the barrel. However, I found the pen so much more comfortable when posted and soon decided not to worry about this. The pen is meant to be used. I think it does actually cause some scratches but they are only visible under a loupe.

Nib and Performance.

I love this nib! It is Rhodium plated steel, with no breather hole and having a very polished finish that matches the section. The long sweeping curves look stylish. Mine is a medium. A fine is also available. I had tried the pen before buying and was delighted that it wrote so smoothly. It is on the finer side of medium and ideal for me. Flow is wet, but not gushy. Overall, it provides a really pleasant writing experience with some feedback. There is some softness or flex available to give some pleasing line variation in normal writing, and this suits me nicely as my handwriting style is not compatible with more flexible nibs.  I like that the nib is steel and not gold as this keeps the cost down.

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Writing sample, medium nib. Ink is Conway Stewart Tavy.

Filling system and maintenance.

This is a cartridge converter pen taking standard international cartridges, or bottled ink from the Pineider branded, push-fit converter that is included.  Cleaning of such pens is straightforward: you just run water through the section until it comes clear, or leave the whole section, with nib and feed inside, to soak in water overnight if needed before rinsing again.

I have not tried going any further, removing the nib from the section. The fins on the underside of the feed look quite fine and delicate and I would be worried about damaging them or upsetting the nib alignment.

Cost and value.

The price in Harrods was £148.00, which I thought was fair. I was thrilled to learn that it came in the same type of gift box as the much more expensive model. A converter is inside, but the box also includes a sample of Pineider’s famous stationery – a set of six cards with matching envelopes.  It is probably towards the top end of what you would want to pay for a steel nibbed pen before moving up to a gold nib.

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Free stationery!

Conclusion.

This pen was an impulse buy from a brand that was unknown to me, and therefore bought entirely on its own merits and on the basis of what I learned in the store. This absence of homework is not always recommended but on this occasion I am really pleased with the pen. Trying the nib in the shop makes a big difference in lowering the risk.

I have since learned a little bit more about the company behind the pen. The Pineider company was founded in Florence in 1774, and for many years was known for its high quality stationery, which it supplied to the Vatican and to royalty.  Luciano Pavarotti was also a customer. The company also sold luxury leather goods, but was not noted for its pens. However, Dante Del Vecchio, pen designer of Italian brand Visconti left that company and moved to Pineider where for the last year,  he has set about making the fountain pen line more prominent. Thus it is no accident that the Avatar bears similarities to the Visconti Rembrandt. There are some differences too, and whilst I do not have experience of the Rembrandt, I rather preferred the Avatar’s overall flair.

I am greatly enjoying the pen. There are few pens that actually make you want to get up in the morning, to write with. This one is a keeper and I look forward to writing with it for many years to come.