It’s time for another pen review, this time a Pelikan! The M400 is a middle-ground fountain pen that sits between the budget M200 and the premium M600; for those that love the M200 design, but are after a 14k gold nib plus some extra luxury trimmings. Pelikans come in, generally, a single design that increases only in size and price as you work your way up the range. Starting from the M200 and being rounded off by the monstrous M1000, the M line represents one of the finest luxury fountain pen lines available.
“So,” some of you may be thinking, “why should I spend the extra over the M200?” Well I think the best way to answer that question is a head to head comparison, so scroll down to see that! For the rest of you, read on for a detailed review of the pen.
The Pelikan line has changed only subtly over the past 60-or-so years, with the cylindrical, screw cap, piston filling design becoming a tradition. The Pelikan 400 came in a variety of shapes and sizes, but each sported a large capacity piston filler, and a 14k gold nib. My Pelikan 400 is a bit larger than my modern M400, noticeably so in fact. The signature Pelikan look, however, comes from the semi-transparent striped body. The body itself is the ink reservoir, but many modern models have a transparent inner cylinder that separates the walls of the barrel from the ink. The transparency lets you see the ink level at a glance, but doesn’t take away from the pen’s colour.
Other models include the M405, which is the silver-trim version, and there are several solid colour versions sans the transparent stripes.
What’s in the Box?
The box is very large, a luxury that really shows off the premium level of this particular pen. A cardboard outer box contains the main part, which slides open to reveal the pen, papers, and a super cool faux-leather “envelope” to store the pen in if you’re especially classy, complete with “wax” seal (made from hard plastic). Of all included cases I have seen, this one is the most unique.
As is the norm with most piston-fillers, no ink cartridges or anything of the sort are included. The whole ensemble is something that would look great displayed on your desk!
Picking up the pen at first, it’s light with a superbly luxurious feel. The body is smooth and glossy all over; the cap screws off cleanly to reveal a gorgeous, two-tone gold nib; and the piston moves smooth, but firm, typical of Pelikan pens. It’s the finer details that I really enjoy about this one, such as the clip which is shaped like a pelican bill, and the logo (a mother pelican next to a tiny chick) etched onto the very top of the cap. This logo also sits central on the nib.
Gold is used throughout the body, not just the nib. There are two bands just under the piston knob, two on the cap (one of which is the cap band), the clip and crown are gold, and there is another gold band right at the base of the nib, on the grip section. My particular model has a gold crown and logo on the top of the cap, which I can’t find too much information about. The “white tortoise” special edition also has a gold crown, so perhaps my version is just a little bit more “special”. The typical M400 has a black crown, however. On the cap band it is engraved “PELIKAN SOUVERÄN GERMANY”
Measurements are as follows:
Using the pen is equally as luxurious as the looks (and the price tag). The cap unscrews with just over a 3/4 turn (about 300 degrees), and posts very nicely, gripping onto the body and not the piston knob, so there’s no chance of unscrewing the piston when posting the cap. The clip is firm, but easily slides onto clothing and would do well in the breast pocket of a suit jacket.
The size is actually on the small end, but is perfectly comfortable to use unposted in my large hands. Posting the cap does balance the pen out a lot and improves the aesthetics immensely when writing, plus the hollow design means the pen is remarkably light and comfortable to use for very long periods (even when filled with ink).
Filling the pen is easy, just put the nib all the way into the ink, unscrew the piston and screw it back up. I tend to repeat this two or three times to get all the air out. Those with a large collection of pens (such as myself) need not worry about storing the pen for long periods; mine has never leaked and wrote instantly after being unused for about 6 months.
Writing with it is a pleasant experience. The nib is smooth with slight friction, but tends to write a little wide for a Western F. In fact, it writes about as wide as a medium Lamy Safari nib, despite them both being German pens. This doesn’t phase me though, as a collection with only one nib size is a boring one in my books.
Flow is medium wet with Parker Quink Blue, and keeps up well with fast strokes too, making this pen well suited to signature writing. Overall, a very excellent writer.
Compared to the M200, the look is similar, but very different at the same time. Both of them are actually the same size, which is extremely odd, but I imagine it’s because the M200 isn’t really counted in the grand M line as it is the only one without a gold nib, amongst other things. If the M200 were smaller than the M400, it would be too small.
Both of them are piston fillers, and the mechanisms work identically and are just as smooth as each other. The ink capacity works out the same too I assume (unless the barrel materials are of different thickness). The M200 doesn’t have the same fit and finish of course, with less gold plating used throughout, and does not have the gold nib of the M400. The cool thing is that you can actually put M400 nib units into the M200 body, for the best of both worlds!
The most notable difference is the body materials. In the M400 you get the very nice striped pattern in all its semi-transparent glory, but the M200 is a plastic, fully opaque material that comes in a variety of patterns. My one is a light blue swirl reminiscent of some sort of sparkling nail polish, or metallic paint on a new car. To make up for the loss of transparency, the M200 actually has an ink window below the grip section. This means that the colouring on the barrel ends a lot earlier than on the M400, but it doesn’t detract from the looks of the pen! The other noticeable difference is the M200 isn’t a luxury Souverän pen, so the engraving on the cap band just reads “PELIKAN GERMANY” and is not as nice looking as the M400’s engraving.
Nib wise, they’re both extremely smooth despite the M200 having a steel nib. If you’re okay with smoothing your nibs (something every enthusiast should have a go at), they can be made to feel identical, with a slight upper hand to the M400. The M200’s flow is a little wetter than the M400, which is something easily corrected. Both pens feel pretty much identical in the hand, with the M400 being just a bit more buttery smooth. I think the premium looks and materials on the M400 do add to the writing experience too, but your mileage may vary.
So which do you buy? Well if you love the striped look of the M400 model and the extra trimmings you get with it, go for that. If you can do without the $100+ price premium, go for the M200. Or better yet, get TWO M200s. Although the M400 is a lot more expensive, that huge price premium doesn’t add much, if anything, to the writing experience. If I found a M400 for under $150, I’d snap it up, but for the $200 that I paid for it, I would have just stayed with the M200 (which I got after the M400).
Then again, there are some that wouldn’t be caught dead with a pen under the $100 price point, and that’s where the M400 comes in. Putting them side by side, it’s obvious that the M400 has the more classic look, and appears more expensive to even the untrained eye. They are both remarkable pens throughout.
Comparisons aside, by itself the M400 is a grand pen, and wouldn’t look out of place in the hand of even the fanciest of folk. The nib is a little wide for my tastes, but is a star performer regardless. The entire pen looks great, feels comfortable, is light but sturdy, and carries a ton of ink. The box and included envelope pouch are cool additions too! A must buy? Not quite, but I doubt anyone would be disappointed with the M400.