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

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Even if you’re not well-acquainted with the world of fountain pens, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that Parker are masters of the genre. Rightly, they’ve earned their place in our list with two disparate, but equally distinguished options, but there are others you might not have heard of that offer some stiff competition.

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 your first impression of a pen is going to be from its barrel – whether that be mirror-finish silver, luxurious rose gold, or even soft, tactile wood – the bit that bears thinking about most before you buy is the business end: the nib.

Most of our favourite fountain pens come with a versatile medium nib, although some offer the choice at checkout between fine and medium. If you’re likely to be sketching with your pen, a fine nib will allow you to achieve a higher level of accuracy, however medium nibs are suitable for most purposes, so it’s best to go for that if you’re unsure – in many cases you can swap it out at a later date if you change your mind.

And it’s not just about the size, it’s also about what it’s made of. Stainless steel pen nibs are incredibly strong and durable, good for particularly aggressive note-takers not just because of their resilience, but their comparatively low replacement cost. 

Occasionally, you’ll find that on more expensive pens this stainless steel is reinforced with iridium for even more staying power. After that, it’s all about gold. 

As well as looking amazing and adding instant prestige to your writing instrument, solid gold nibs use their natural softness to their advantage, and many writers love the way the flexible material adapts over time to their individual writing style.

The best fountain pen

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

Looks great, writes beautifully – an all-round winner

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.

Parker Duofold Gold Trimmed Fountain Pen

2. Parker Duofold Gold Trimmed Fountain Pen

Wonderfully weighted with an unmistakable distinction

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. 

Parker Sonnet

3. Parker Sonnet

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

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?

Kingsman + Conway Stewart Churchill Fountain Pen

4. Kingsman + Conway Stewart Churchill Fountain Pen

Fan service meets secret service in this dashing collaboration

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.

Faber-Castell Pear Wood

5. Faber-Castell Pear Wood

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

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.

Ted Baker 24k Fountain Pen

6. Ted Baker 24k Fountain Pen

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

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

7. Cross Century II

Lightweight, leak proof, and legendary

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.