Why the fountain pen has become the must-have luxury accessory

In our digital era where email and text reigns supreme, the actual art of writing seems to be going the way of Blu Ray – obsolete.

But like many art forms – and it is an art in its own way; who hasn't marvelled at nanna's vintage cursive? – penmanship is undergoing something of a resurgence in Australia.

A recent report published by 'Office Products in Australia, 2016-2018' (Penfold Research), stated that in the last year the number of fountain pens and stylograph pens imported into the country has increased by 134 per cent in comparison to 2014-15.

It's a growth that Scott Thornton, managing director of leading pen manufacturer Pilot, says can be attributed to digital fatigue.

"[The] research suggests that, in addition to the general backlash against technology, or perhaps as a result of it, there is somewhat of a 'go slow' counter movement taking place," explains Thornton.

"This has lead to a resurgence in the popularity of handcraft type hobbies and activities that involve some detail and skill."

The art of nostalgia

And skill it is.

There's something incredibly intimate about receiving handwritten notes. Call it nostalgia or simply being old fashioned (emojis are neither romantic nor meaningful in a real sense, don't ever send me one), but writing something by hand suggests a certain amount of time, effort and care has gone into its creation.

Writing with a fountain pen in particular, as opposed to a standard ballpoint, requires a certain amount of control and finesse. One that without regular practice can quickly be lost.


A neglected talent

Handwriting, it seems, isn't like riding a bike - you can actually forget how to do it. I say this as someone who once proudly wrote an entire thesis by hand (before typing) yet since working exclusively on a laptop now struggles to scribble a shopping list. Working primarily on a laptop or computer requires a very different set of muscles and uses different neural pathways.

So it's no surprise that, to coincide with the spurt of pen owners, that a growing number of people are heading back to school to relearn the lost art of writing.

Barbara Nichol, owner of specialist writing shop Pen Ultimate in Sydney's QVB, says she has had clients from all walks of life contacting her for lessons on how to regain their proficiency and flair in penmanship.

"People are rediscovering the great pleasure of doing things with their hands," explains Nichol.

"Becoming platform neutral and going off-line is the real luxury of our time. Many clients are doctors who tell me that while they do their "grunt" work on the computer keyboard, they wish to use a nice fountain pen to sign scripts and reports and take notes in front of patients to give a sense of occasion to important matters...Lawyers want to emulate their peers of old and add some gravitas to their work, even architects have taken up urban sketching again and want some nice penmanship to letter titles of sketches."

Not all pens are equal

Another part of the appeal could also be in the fountain pen itself which, like a watch, carries a certain level craftsmanship. Collectors are known to fork out serious cash for the old school writing instrument, engineered to perfection.

Details such as weight and balance, the grip and even the smoothness of the nib, all contributing to a far more sensually heightened experience than punching out letters on a keyboard offers, are crucial factors of a pen's merit and worth.

While not the most expensive pen in the world (that title goes to the Aurora Diamante which sold for close to AU$2 million), the Parker 51 has been held as the epitome of pen design. According to legend the pen took 11 years to design and while sadly now discontinued, second hand versions of the 51 are still available known to sell for as much as AU$3338.

"Just like a stylish watch, a beautiful fountain pen can put the polish on your appearance and makes a statement about who you are," says Thornton.

"Plus, there is nothing quite like handwriting with a fountain pen – it produces a lovely flow of ink which can help give your handwriting an impressive appearance."

Scroll through the gallery at the top for some of the best new old school pens.