Variety

Visconti pens: Maestro di Firenze

Pradipta K Mohapatra | Updated on November 16, 2011

Carbon Dream Detailed   -  BUSINESS LINE

Visconti Alchemy   -  BUSINESS LINE

Visconti Alchemy Inkwell   -  BUSINESS LINE

Visconti Carbon Dream   -  BUSINESS LINE

Visconti Divina   -  BUSINESS LINE

Black Divina Ballpoint   -  BUSINESS LINE

Elevating the simple pen to a work of art, Visconti has made its mark on the world of fine writing instruments

It is quite unusual for a pen maker to inscribe on his pen its city or country of origin. There are, however, illustrious examples of this practice in the watch industry. Rolex from Geneva, IWC from Schaffhausen and A. Lange & Söhne from Glashütten are all proud of their place of birth. In the same way, Visconti founders Dante del Vecchio and Luigi Poli couldn't have ignored the illustrious birthplace of their beautiful pens - Florence.

The journey

Vecchio and Poli, both avid pen collectors decided to make a world class range of pens that would encapsulate their key credo:

In design and style, the pen must be artistic and innovative to reflect the spirit of its birthplace, Florence

The pen must use materials belonging to a by-gone era

In engineering excellence, the pen must be second to none

Vecchio, now the President of the company and who operates from the 15{+t}{+h} century Villa Il Chiuso which once belonged to the family of Earls ‘De Pazzi' and is located in the centre of Florence, feels great satisfaction that within twenty years of being founded, one of the Visconti models was awarded the 2007 Pen of the Year by the magazine, Pen World. By 2010, Visconti had taken five places amongst the twenty most expensive pens in the world. It had as its competition brands like Montblanc, Caran d'Ache and Omas, pen companies which are almost a century older than Visconti. Having founded Visconti in 1988, Dante Vecchio has reasons to be proud of creating a world class product and brand in less than twenty five years. It has taken grit, determination and single-minded devotion to the credo to create and sustain Visconti.

Vecchio's early decision to make the pen out of an older generation plastic material, namely celluloid (the way all pens were made before 1950) turned out to be a difficult proposition. By 1988, all factories making celluloid in Europe had closed down. He had to reopen the last factory so that he could have a steady supply of celluloid. Manufactured from nitro-cellulose and camphor, most Visconti pens use celluloid as the base material. You will know the difference between common plastic and engineered celluloid when you hold a Visconti in your hand. All parts of the Visconti pens, except the nibs, are made by hand in the same building that houses the Visconti headquarters. The nibs, typically in 18 carat gold or palladium, are sourced from Germany. In the tradition of innovation, Vecchio's spectacular material usage is typified in the ‘Homo Sapiens' model, where he uses volcanic lava from Mount Etna as the material of construction.

Art inspirations

‘Rembrandt', Visconti's basic model, inspired by and named after the Dutch artist, is made from celluloid and a combination of nibs from steel to palladium. Visconti's other pen models devoted to artists are Michelangelo and Van Gogh. The Van Gogh, which was remastered in 2011, is reminiscent of the artist's famous Impressionist paintings. Asked as to what his most favourite pen was, Vecchio had no hesitation in referring to the ‘Black Divina'. Visconti's Divina and its unique shape were inspired by the Golden Mean, also known as the Divine Ratio which is 1.618. A special edition Divina was released to commemorate the 2009 G8 Summit. President Obama signed the G8 document using his own Divina. Another famous American, Oprah Winfrey, who lends her name as brand ambassador of Visconti also uses a Divina. Of the several limited edition models, the one that catches my fancy is ‘Carbon Dream'. This is the first pen in the world to use carbon fibre overlay. Limited to 993 pens, it comes with a solid carbon fibre inkwell. For lovers of the fountain pen, this one is a must.

A symbol of union

One of the distinct design features of all Visconti pens is the Visconti clip. The clip, according to Vecchio, represents a bridge as a symbol of friendship and union between people, which Vecchio thinks is also the role of the pen. With solid roots in Florence, Visconti is available in more than fifty countries. In recent months, Gitanjali Group has tied up with Visconti to distribute the brand in India. Soon, 108 Gitanjali jewellery stores will display and sell Visconti pens. Here is an opportunity for pen lovers in India to clip a piece of Florence to their pocket.

(The author is an amateur Horologist and can be reached at pradip@cfi.co.in)

Published on November 16, 2011

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