From Geneva with love

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Caran d’Ache pen in the hand is something to appreciate.  We’ve always been fans of this quality pen from the shores of Lake Geneva but during a recent visit to a trade event I was introduced to a real expert from the Company, Stefan Muller.  Mr Muller, has worked, with evident loving, on the production of the Caran d’Ache products for more than 40 years and is now their ambassador.

In our brief meeting, with the aid of well-travelled samples, Mr Muller explained the manufacturing process from a slightly short piece of extremely high-grade brass, through the stamping and machining processes to the blank Ecridor /Varius pen foundation.  The detail of the fine engraving for the Ecridor and hand preparation was described with further illustrative samples,  followed by a brief over-view of the plating processes, the exquisite detail of which was being saved for the grand finale of the Varius presentation.

Caran d'Ache Maya gold fountain pen

Caran d'Ache Maya gold plated fountain pen with more than 10mic of gold

The Varius range comes from the same roots as the Ecridor but the hand application of the Chinese lacquers was a revelation in the present climate of mechanisation and fast turn-round times. Each Varius pen takes several weeks of hand application of lacquers and polishing before it is even ready for its final silver or gold plating.

Caran d'Ache Varius China Blue fountain pen

Caran d'Ache Varius China Blue fountain pen

Once prepared, the plating process is fastidiously followed with more than 10 microns of high-grade precious metal, usually silver or gold.  The thickness of the plating is such that by some process, the Caran d’Ache engineers had managed to produce the gold plating for  a cigarette lighter but without the lighter! The gold was of sufficient thickness that, whilst flimsy, it was still able to withstand handling.

I enquired about the lacquer on the Leman and was advised that, whilst not Chinese lacquer, Caran d’Ache had developed a system that ensured a consistent, but still largely manually applied, lacquer around the barrel and cap brass blanks.  This is how they achieve such beautiful, deep finishes on their pens.

The care and detail employed by the production team, in my opinion, tends to be overlooked in Caran d’Ache’s literature instead, opting for the slightly vacuous fashion-lead copy.  Nothing can replace a description of the love and attention applied by the people who devote their skills to such delightful writing implements.

Mr Muller may have been preaching to the converted but the detail he put into the description of each process gave me a much deeper appreciation of why they tend to be a little more expensive than some of their competitors.  Clearly, the degree of manual intervention and personal inspection commands the price premium but this knowledge can give the user such additional satisfaction.


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