The best fountain pens 2018: bring some timeless style to your desk

Add some grown-up glamour to your desktop or pencil case with our pick of the best fountain pens and cartridge pens

TODO alt text

Instead of reaching for a ballpoint there’s nothing quite like using a quality fountain pen to get your writing done. The whole experience is rewarding, from purchasing one and unpacking it through to using it for the first time. And, buy yourself a premium fountain pen and you should be able to get years of service too.

Parker is one of the go-to brands when it comes to fountain pens, but there’s actually a thriving marketplace out there with numerous manufacturers to choose from. And, what that means is you can find a fountain pen that suits not only your taste, but one that has an ergonomic design style to fit any kind of hand.

The Swiss-made Caran d’Ache Ecridor takes our top spot for its immediate wow-factor, amazing handling and characteristically Teutonic attention to detail, but if you’re looking closer to home, we recommend getting your hands on the special Kingsman edition of Conway Stewart’s Churchill pen.

While the basic concept of a fountain pen might seem pretty straightforward, the models we’ve found below offer up lots of cool variations on the theme too. There are barrels made from a variety of materials and tip options can be tailored to suit your writing style but you’ll want to look out for specific design and build points as you shop.

Keep an eye on weight and dimensions when you’re searching for a fountain pen. Next up, choose the pointy bit – the nib – to match your writing style. There are super fine nibs that range from XF through to broader options right up to 2B. The former is a good bet for finer, small handwriting while the latter is suitable for a more flamboyant style.

Nibs also come in a range of different materials, depending on the cost of the pen, how long you want it to last and your own personal preference. You’ll also want to consider refills and how much they might cost you over time. Nevertheless, a good quality fountain pen is still a cost-effective option as it’ll last you a lot longer than a whole pile of plastic ballpoints.

A quality fountain pen makes a real style statement in the same way as a high-end watch does and, if you’re in the market for one, there’s never been a better time to buy. Here’s our pick of the best fountain pens 2018.

The best fountain pen

1. Caran D'ache Ecridor Retro Palladium-Coated Fountain Pen

Looks great, writes beautifully – an all-round winner

Specifications
Best for: Effortlessly beautiful
Nib material: Palladium-coated metal
Barrel material: Palladium-coated metal
Reasons to buy
+Handsome, unusual design+Writes beautifully
Reasons to avoid
-Grip can be a little slippery

What with how well they handle chocolate and cheese, we should’ve always left it up to the Swiss to make a thoroughly desirable and beautifully engineered fountain pen.

Coated in palladium and engraved all over with an intricate guilloche design (that’s ‘braided’, for those who don’t belong to some kind of pattern-making guild), it’s both tough and beautiful, and comes with a lifetime international guarantee to back it up. But how does it write? One reviewer commented that it writes as well as pens double its price, and many others raved about the balance, weight, and smooth line.

2. Montblanc Le Grand 146 Fountain Pen

Take a more superior handwriting line with this super stylish fountain pen

Specifications
Best for: A lavish show of handwriting
Nib material: 14k gold with Rhodium inlay
Barrel material: Black resin
Reasons to buy
+High-end look and feel+Superbly made nib
Reasons to avoid
-You'd be very angry if you lost it

The Montblanc Le Grand 146 Fountain Pen is an indulgence for sure, but its high price tag rewards you with a dreamy handwriting journey. Much of that revolves around the nib, which is a 14k gold and Rhodium combination in the medium format that delivers a precise ink-to-paper experience. 

Similarly, the body, though fashioned from more conventional black resin, feels nicely balanced and you can tell that this is a quality product. As you’d expect from Montblanc, the Le Grand 146 Fountain Pen comes lavishly presented in a gift box while they also offer a dazzling array of different ink colours to compliment it.

Kingsman + Conway Stewart Churchill Fountain Pen

3. Kingsman + Conway Stewart Churchill Fountain Pen

Fan service meets secret service in this dashing collaboration

Specifications
Best for: Distinguished details
Nib material: Iridium-tipped 18-carat gold
Barrel material: Acrylic
Reasons to buy
+Refined design+Well-weighted
Reasons to avoid
- The details will be lost on non-Kingsman fans 

That you don’t even need to be a fan of the Kingsman films to appreciate the beauty of this pen says plenty about its design, but for die-hards, the little touches on this pen will be much appreciated.

Exclusive to Mr Porter, this collaboration with Conway Stewart, who provide the royal palaces and Number 10 with their writing instruments, features an iridium-tipped 18-carat gold nib and 9 carats elsewhere, including a cap band inscribed with Kingsman code ‘Oxfords not Brogues’, and is purported to be beautifully weighted for effortless and comfortable writing.
 

4. Waterman Fountain Pen

Enjoy classic fountain pen styling and a workmanlike delivery from this heavyweight

Specifications
Best for: Those with bigger hands
Nib material: 23k gold-plated stainless steel
Barrel material: Lacquered brass
Reasons to buy
+Beefy design but well balanced+Good choice of different styles
Reasons to avoid
-Chunkier feel might not suit all tastes

This is a French-made classic fountain pen that packs the archetypal cigar shape that is so popular around the world and comes with a perfectly serviceable medium tip that makes it suitable for pretty much anyone. However, a fine nib variant is available for anyone wanting a more petite look on their paperwork. 

We like the way that Waterman has designed this model in a raft of different variants, so you can choose from a pretty conventional black and gold look or opt for one of the wilder designs. Deluxe Blue Obsession, for example, looks like a great alternative. Arrives in a very nice presentation box too.

Parker Duofold Gold Trimmed Fountain Pen

5. Parker Duofold Gold Trimmed Fountain Pen

Wonderfully weighted with an unmistakable distinction

Specifications
Best for: Handcrafted
Nib material: 18-carat gold and rhodium
Barrel material: Resin
Reasons to buy
+Amazing handcrafted details+Well-weighted
Reasons to avoid
- Huge cap 

21 individual pieces go into making Parker’s Duofold pen, each one put together by hand to make some very handsome pocket candy indeed. This craftsmanship shines through in the design, sure – there’s no mistaking the Art Deco vibes of the gold trim, or the contrasting ace design on the partially-covered rhodium nib – but also in the way it handles.

Reviewers loved the solid feel of the chunky barrel, and found it well weighted for writing; smooth, with just the right level of feedback. 

Faber-Castell Pear Wood

6. Faber-Castell Pear Wood

For a bit of natural beauty in your pocket, look no further than this wooden fountain pen

Specifications
Best for: Feels great
Nib material: Stainless steel
Barrel material: Pearwood
Reasons to buy
+Distinctive wooden barrel+Feels great to write with
Reasons to avoid
-A little tricky to unscrew nib

If you’ve grown tired of black and gold, this wood-cased fountain pen is set to shake things up a little. With just the right amount of bling courtesy of a mirror-finish cap, nib and collar, the bulk of the pen is given over to smooth pear wood with a beautiful natural grain that reviewers say feels wonderful to write with.

Coming with a cartridge/converter system, it gives the option for easier modern cartridges or use with an inkwell, and in both cases, reviewers were pleased to report a smooth writing experience.

7. Pilot Capless

A superb fountain pen for those with a delicate touch and an eye for subtle details

Specifications
Best for: A fine writing style
Nib material: Rhodium-plated 18k gold
Barrel material: Birchwood
Reasons to buy
+Wonderful to hold and handle+Innovative edge to the design
Reasons to avoid
-Might be too fine for some

The main highlight of this Pilot fountain pen is its glorious wooden barrel, which feels excellent in your hand as well as being nicely balanced. This one comes with a fine Rhodium-plated 18k gold nib. As a result, it’s better suited to those with a featherlight touch, but it’s not scratchy to use as some at this end of the nib spectrum tend to be. 

Originating from Japan means that it’s got an innovative edge too, with a mechanism that prevents the fountain pen from ever drying up. The Pilot also comes in a special gift box along with a cartridge refill so that you can hit the paper running so to speak.

Parker Sonnet

8. Parker Sonnet

Or ode, or haiku, or limerick – what you write with it, and how it looks, is up to you

Specifications
Best for: Comfort and customisability
Nib material: Stainless steel or 18k solid gold
Barrel material: Stainless steel
Reasons to buy
+Loads of colour options; choice of nibs+Smooth writing action
Reasons to avoid
-Finger grip prone to rusting

As stationery geeks, we think every fountain pen is beautiful in its own way (don’t laugh), but sometimes the choices can seem a little… well, safe. Refreshingly, this Parker pen takes a little walk on the wild side, offering seemingly endless options for customisation, including a choice of medium or fine nibs, three nib materials, and over 15 colour, print and trim combos. Most importantly, its action is smooth as butter – what’s not to love?

Ted Baker 24k Fountain Pen

9. Ted Baker 24k Fountain Pen

Beautifully blingy, this rose gold fountain pen brings joy to all jots

Specifications
Best for: Eye-catching design
Nib material: Gold-plated steel
Barrel material: Rose gold plated steel
Reasons to buy
+Looks fantastic+Even ink flow
Reasons to avoid
-Presentation box isn’t the best

A bit of a departure from our previous pick, this pen is unashamedly showy, but that’s certainly no bad thing.

Plated in 24-carat gold, it backs up its ultra-luxurious look with what reviewers report to be a well-balanced, even writing experience with great flow and no blotchy nightmares from the iridium nib. But if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, the writing is just a bonus: here it’s all about the look, and in mirror-finish ultra-trendy rose gold, it’s a very good look indeed.

Cross Century II

10. Cross Century II

Lightweight, leak proof, and legendary

Specifications
Best for: Lightweight
Nib material: Gold-plated
Barrel material: Chrome and gold plate
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and slender+Lifetime mechanical warranty
Reasons to avoid
-Casing prone to fingerprints

Building on the success of the original Cross Century pen, the Century II beefs up the profile and adds a contrasting silver and gold colourway to create a new classic. 

What users loved about the original is still here in full force, though. They commend the leak-proof design, immune to all kinds of bumps and jiggles in-transit; the beautifully smooth writing action, and the longevity of the build, with one long-time user noting the impressive lack of wear on the gold plating.

11. Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen

Enjoy a dependable writing experience from this surprisingly upmarket budget fountain pen

Specifications
Best for: Those on a budget
Nib material: Steel
Barrel material: Plastic
Reasons to buy
+Writes well using cartridges or liquid ink+Looks deceptively upmarket for the price
Reasons to avoid
-Might feel too light for some

Want to make a style statement without spending the big bucks? The Dryden Luxury Fountain Pen ticks all of the boxes when it comes to delivering a great all-round real ink experience. However, it comes at a fraction of the price, which is why it has become a best seller. 

The design is classic, functional and there’s a medium tip so it’s perfect as a gift or for anyone who doesn’t have a specific preference. The other bonus with this fountain pen is that it comes with an ink converter, which means that you can use it with both cartridges or liquid ink. In fact, as a complete package this one is hard to beat at the lower end of the market.