Gain, Fail, or Shine – A Less Ultra Black Montblanc M

The Ultra Black finish. My Montblanc M ballpoint. Certainly a love at first sight situation when I first came across it in a display case a few years ago. Admittedly I was not entirely sure what the “ultra” really was at the time. A finish? A colour? The mostest or blackest of blacks? In any event, it was different to the standard shiny black “precious resin” of the Montblanc line.

While Montblanc describes it as ”black precious sandblasted resin”, it’s probably fair to call this one “matte black” if we’re trying to provide some context or perspective. While I do enjoy the lustrous deep black shine that is the standard precious resin finish, something a little different is always nice to have, particularly when it’s not at Montblanc’s Great Characters or Writers Edition prices.

So why the post? Well, really only to mention a change I’ve seen in that Ultra Black finish over time. You see, my Ultra Black M ballpoint, when compared with the standard precious resin of the M fountain pen I own — is decidedly less Ultra than it used to be.

I’ll say up front it doesn’t really bother me, however knowing we are all somewhat different in our tolerance for these sorts of things, thought I’d put down a few words outlining what I’ve seen.

The Pens

I’ve written before of my experience with the Montblanc M Ultra Black ballpoint, and it remains close to the the top of my all time favourite and most used pens (perhaps explaining what follows). When it comes to its fountain pen sibling, well I have to say my fondness for the M design lineage continues. I’ve had the M fountain pen for a shorter period of time (though also a good while now), so its long term position in the “inked” pen pot is still being assessed, though to date it has demonstrated quite a strong showing.

My workhorse Montblanc M ballpoint

After all, fountain pens aren’t necessarily the universal truth compared with a ballpoint are they. With nib placement, angle, and balance, there is a reasonable combination of “getting it right” required before you end up with a decent writing experience. Compare that with the uncap-and-dash world of the ballpoint. In my experience so far, the M fountain pen deserves some kudos, at least in this medium nib version I have in my hand.

So, the pens? All good there — love them. The real question being have they lost some of their “shine” given what follows below. Maybe, maybe not — again, it depends on your perspective I guess.

On Shade

Now, onto matters of shade, hue, finish, or at least the “Ultra” of the equation here. To be honest, had I not had both pens out side by side recently I might not have noticed anything different…

Having the M’s tucked away next to each other in a Nock Co Lookout pen case, it was easy to distinguish between the two by the cap finishes peeking out the top. One, a shiny, lustrous piano black in precious resin. The other, a decidedly matte version of well… black. The point being, its a simple task to tell them apart. Funny thing was, after using both, I accidentally recapped them incorrectly as the barrels looked pretty much the same. Upon comparing a little closer, I was somewhat surprised to see that for all intents and purposes the barrel finishes carried essentially the same sort of gloss finish.

The all gloss standard “precious resin” on the left, the Ultra Black on the right – well the cap at least…

Confused yet? Well I feel as though I’m writing my way around in circles here so I wouldn’t blame you. Where I’d usually refer you to a picture that speaks a thousand words, here I’ve found it incredibly difficult to capture what is clearly visible to the naked eye. In any event, the upshot here is that after a few years heavy use, the barrel of my Ultra Black ballpoint, pretty well matches the barrel of the decidedly non-Ultra Black fountain pen.

Now strictly speaking there is somewhat of a gradient here. That is, the cap remains the truest version of Ultra Black, not having the constant buffing of my hand wrapped around it, unlike the now-glossier barrel does. Another step along the continuum is the actual precious resin of the fountain pen finish. I guess if we liken it to interior house paint, we’d be talking matte (the Ultra Black cap); semi-gloss (the Ultra Black barrel) and gloss (the standard black precious resin). I’ve gotta say though, those barrels are pretty close.

An unordered gradient of sorts – the standard precious resin pen and cap on left; the Ultra Black yet semi-gloss body far right, and Ultra Black cap centre right

Call it patina, shine, wear and tear, or whatever you like, I simply thought it worth putting down in a post should this sort of thing worry you. Of course it may not be a concern at all. It isn’t to me, however I cannot say for certain that would have always been the case. Perhaps it’s age (as in mine), experience, or something else, but I have this underlying feeling I may not have been overly happy early in my pen journey to notice the removal of the Ultra aspect of my Ultra Black pen simply through the friction of use. I guess this may be somewhat moderated by the fact it didn’t come with any premium addition to the price when I bought it (other then the brand premium of course…), although that is perhaps not entirely the point.

The truest form of Ultra Black remains in the cap – on the right here of course.

Signing off

There are times I feel I”ve written a “What??? Who cares about that???” type of post, and this is one of them. But let’s face it, we all write thousands of words about pens and it simply becomes the nature of a blog at times. There will be those posts that are probably irrelevant to many, yet interesting or useful to some. Hopefully this one finds a place.

One final point in the hypothetical and mostly irrelevant (to me at least) bucket: If I wanted to sell this pen, could I really do so as an Ultra Black model? Perhaps not, though technically that is indeed the model you’d be buying. Again, an interesting question, though as I say, decidedly hypothetical given it is certainly not going anywhere.

So there you have it, the Ultra Black Montblanc M that becomes decidedly non-Ultra Black over time. Make of that what you will.

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