Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen Review

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

When I discovered the Romillo Pen brand last year I knew I had to have one.  On the surface Romillo embodied my perfect pen; one with no frills, just a simple pen focused on writing pleasure through a giant hand-made nib.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

After some back and forth with the pen maker, Álvaro Romillo, I decided on an Essential #9 in blue/black hard rubber with a semi-flexible #9 italic nib with rhodium trim and a solid silver lentil.

The lead time was only 1 month and after half a year with this pen I am finally ready to review it.

Appearance

The design of the Essential is ultra simple, flat ends, slight taper on the cap and barrel, and a rhodium plated solid silver roller stopper.  The blue and black mottled rubber has a nice semi-matte finish.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

The rhodium plated 18kt gold nib is enormous and paired with the skinny the long skinny pen body it really stands out.  The nib features hand engraved wings and the Romillo logo.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

I am very fond of the Essential’s simple shape, it’s not flashy, it’s subtle.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen
Swirled mottled rubber on the top of the cap

Score: 5/5

Build Quality

The Essential is all hand made and this shows for better or worse.  The fit and finish of hard rubber is excellent with not flaws that I could detect.  It is a beautiful material.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

There is an engraved number on the end of the barrel that isn’t well aligned and while it does not bother me, I point it out simply because I have never seen a pen numbered in this (sloppy?) way.

387 is the number of my Essential
My Essential is #387

The cap material is very thin but so far no issues to report.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

The finish on the nib is not perfect.  There is a dirty area on the left side at the base of the nib.  It is some sort of flaw in the finish.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

On the left tine if you look closely you can see what I am guessing is an air bubble in the rhodium finish.  Neither of these imperfections are really noticeable.  My fingerprint on the nib looks much worse than any of these flaws.  If you turn the nib upside down you can see that the underside of the tines are badly finished.  This flaw stands out the most.

Badly finished tines
Badly finished tines

There is a lot more handiwork that goes into making this nib than I have seen with other “handmade” pens.  I suspect that these flaws are a byproduct of more manual processes.  These imperfections could likely be avoided but the end result is still a beautiful and unique handmade nib.

When I think of the best fountain pens made today, I think of Japan and brands like Hakase, Nakaya, Ohashi-Do and Pilot/Namiki; while their nibs are of excellent quality they are all more or less based on a mass produced nib and that is where Romillo really stands out.

Score: 3/5

Size & Weight

The Romillo Essential #9 can be ordered in a custom length for no additional fee.  I went for the standard 153mm length (capped).  The Essential is a very long pen.  It’s longer than my Nakaya Naka-ai and my Montblanc 149, yet it is skinner than both of them.  At it’s widest point its about 14mm.

Left to right: Nakaya Naka-ai, Romillo Essential #9, Montblanc 149
Left to right: Nakaya Naka-ai, Romillo Essential #9, Montblanc 149

Uncapped the Essential measures just under 15mm.  The pen can be posted but the cap doesn’t sit very far onto the back of the barrel.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

The Essential weighs a 26 grams empty.  Because of the brass threading it is not well balanced and makes for a nib heavy pen even when posted.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

The nib is nearly 30mm long and I found “finger writing” to be quite uncomfortable with this pen. When I use my arms to write (as one should) I found no discomfort after 5 pages of writing.

Left to right: Aurora Afrika, Nakaya Naka-ai, Romillo Essential #9, Montblanc 149, Soennecken 1 Extra
Left to right: Aurora Afrika, Nakaya Naka-ai, Romillo Essential #9, Montblanc 149, Soennecken 1 Extra

If I were to do it again I would opt for the smaller #7 size nib as there are times when I do revert back to finger writing.

Score: 2/5

Performance

Performance is what a Romillo is supposed to be all about.  My nib was setup to be a “semi-flexible” 0.7mm italic with a generous flow.  First things first, it is not semi-flexible in the way that a vintage nib can be.  The tines do spread with ease compared to a modern rigid nib but it is no where near as soft as a vintage nib.

A huge thirsty ebonite feed
A huge thirsty ebonite feed

In addition to the enormous nib there is an enormous feed and I found that when freshly filled it can take a little while to get going.  Once it starts flowing there is no interruption in service and the pen performs beautifully.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

Again, there is an issue with “finger writing”.  The nib, like most italics, has a sweet spot but unlike other italics I have come across, the Romillo doesn’t provide the same sharp feedback, so initially, I found it difficult to get the pen writing properly without skipping.

If you write (again, as you should) with your arm and not your fingers the nib works flawlessly.

The biggest success of this pen is the nib, it feels like none other.

Score: 4/5

Filling System

Pens fitted with #9 nibs are only offered as eyedroppers and I was told that was because a converter could not provide enough ink flow to the feed.  The #9 is indeed very thirsty. The Essential has a large 2.1 ml ink capacity (roughly four times as much as a standard converter) and despite this I find myself having to refill this pen quite often.

Unlike other eyedroppers I have seen this one uses brass threading and a rubber o-ring to seal the pen.

Brass threading and O-ring
Brass threading and O-ring

I don’t know if the brass will do anything to the ink or if the ink will do anything to brass but to me this is an unusual application of brass.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

When filling this pen I recommend being conservative with the amount of ink you fill it with.  1.7ml is pretty safe.  If you fill up to the O-ring you are going to have a mess on your hands as when the section is threaded in O-ring is pushed down approximately 5mm into the barrel.

The section in this picture is not fully screwed down
The section in this picture is not fully screwed down

Lastly, it should be noted that screwing the section onto the barrel needs to be done with care.  I found that the section needs to be quite tight on the barrel so I had to twist it on more tightly than other eyedroppers I have had to use.

Score: 2/5

Value

With shipping from Spain the Essential cost 965€, that is a whole lot of money for a pen.  It is hard to call the Essential a value as there are pens that perform as well for much less money; what those pens will lack though is the personality and feel of a Romillo.

So how does it compare to the likes of my similarly priced Montblanc 149 and Nakaya?

Left to right: Montblanc 149, Romillo Essential #9, Nakaya Naka-ai
Left to right: Montblanc 149, Romillo Essential #9, Nakaya Naka-ai

From a writing perspective the 149 is the closest.  The 149 has an oversized nib and even larger ink capacity.  The 14C OB nib on the 149 is softer, and being from the 1970s it has more of a vintage nib feel.  The Nakaya shares a similar handmade feel to Romillo.

The Romillo is the least practical of these three pens because it’s the hardest to fill and runs out of ink the fastest.  That said, no other bespoke pen maker that I am aware of makes their own nibs; that is reason enough to own one.

Score: 3/5

Bottom Line

The Essential #9 has a unique feel and enough charm to make you forgive its faults.

Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen

Final Score 19/30

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6 thoughts on “Romillo Essential #9 Fountain Pen Review”

  1. I have been dallying with the idea of a Romillo for some time now, and your review was very helpful.

    Like you the idea of a completely handmade bespoke pen, particularly the nib, appealed.

    I am considering the smaller pens as I prefer a c/c filler or possibly the soul piston filler.

    Given your concerns over QA would you buy the pen again, given what you know now and with the benefit of hindsight?

    1. Thank you for your comment DaVinci. I would buy another one. The quality issues don’t bother me. If this was a Montblanc or other mass produced pen I would return it but true handmade items are rarely ever perfect.

      Also from other people’s accounts Romillo has excellent customer service. If I complained about the finish issues I imagine they would attempt to fix them.

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