Instead of reaching for a ballpoint, there’s nothing quite like using one of the best fountain pens 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.
The best fountain pens you can buy
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, beautiful and comes with a lifetime international guarantee to back it up. But how does it write? We found that it writes as well as pens double its price, we love this pen's balance, weight, and smooth line.
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.
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.
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 we think 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. This fountain pen arrives in a very nice presentation box too.
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.
We found reviewers love the solid feel of the chunky barrel, and found it well weighted for writing; smooth and with just the right level of feedback.
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 we think 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.
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 – we think that's genius. 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.
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?
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 reviewers loved about the original is still here in full force, though. We 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.
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-around 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, we think this one is hard to beat at the lower end of the market.
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.
How we test the best fountain pens
All of our tests are done in a real-world environment – not in a lab. This means we are using the best fountain pens in the same way as you would and can give you the feedback that matters to you, not just a series of numbers.
In each review, we look at how the pen sits among its competition, how it compares to other models, as well as how much it justifies its price tag. In addition to providing an honest verdict to help you choose if it's right for you.
For more information on fountain pens, you can read our guide on how much should I spend on a fountain pen? and what should I look for when buying a fountain pen?