Actually, dear reader, once you have seen the pictures of the astonishing latest release of the Montblanc High Artistry, A Tribute to the Great Wall you may stop here. I dare to say, that there are no more words needed to describe the beauty, sophistication and dedication the Montblanc artisans have put into this series of 5 writing instruments to homage one of the 8 world wonders. On the other hand, there is so much to say about the 5 limited editions, that this post would take over 20 minutes to read. So let’s find the balance and follow me discovering the many details that characterise these magnificent objects.
Let me start with saying, that under the leadership of Zaim Kamal, the pieces that Montblanc is releasing one masterpiece after the other. In fact, already during our interview on the Elvis Presley, the ideas of the Chief Designer of Montblanc reflected his engagement and absolute dedication to the project. The result in the case of the Tribute to the Great Wall is… well, judge by yourself.
Red & Yellow
On January 23rd, the Instagram Account of Montblanc was posting the first photo of the Limited Edition 333. A beautiful 149 size Fountain pen in a deep-red translucent lacquer underlay beneath an Au 750 solid gold skeleton overlay where red represents fire, as well as happiness, beauty, vitality, good luck, success and good fortune. Yellow symbolises royalty and is traditionally reserved for the emperor. As soon as I have seen it, my first thought was: WOW! That is for sure the top of the range. Let’s see the other ones, right? OK, I was terribly wrong. The LE 333 is only the “entry level”, allow me the term, of the Tribute to the Great Wall range. But even this first variant is so incredibly sophisticated. Great size, amazing handcrafted Au750 solid yellow gold nib and mother-of-pearl emblem on the top. And then, I have received the official press release by Montblanc…
The Qin dynasty
Qin Shi Huang, the founder of the Qin dynasty and the first emperor of China, commanded that, in place of several small walls, one long wall be constructed to defend the empire against nomadic riders from the north. The Limited Edition 88 made of Au 750 solid white gold, is inspired by the armour of the warriors who defended the Chinese Empire. From this variant on, the shape of the writing instrument changes drastically. The importance of calligraphy is highlighted by the overall shape of the writing instrument, the cone hand-lacquered to mirror the appearance of the calligraphy brush hair, as well as the cap crowned with the interpretation of an inkpot, with the PVD-coated pot containing the Montblanc emblem in white Teflon. How cool is that. In the picture below you can actually see the ink partly covering the Montblanc Logo. And here the creativity of Zaim kicks in again. Only he could have the idea to cover the brand logo. Every Brand Manager would never accept this. He managed to do that. Well done! And it’s the case also on the next piece.
The Han dynasty
Another mythic element of the Chinese history is the silk road. The cultural and trade bridge between Orient and Occident. And here it comes, another innovation by Montblanc. Silk on a writing instrument? Dedicated to the material that gave the ancient trade route its name, the barrel of the Limited Edition 10 highlights the craft of silk embroidery, with delicate handcrafted gold stitching embroidered onto the barrel depicting the Great Wall from the Han dynasty. Mother-of-pearl, another material transported along the Silk Route, adorns the cap as plates held by solid gold pins in a design that echoes Han dynasty royal burial shrouds. And then the highlight, from my point of view, a Montblanc interpretation of an inkpot, as traditionally used by calligraphers on the cap of the pen. The PVD-coated pot contains the Montblanc emblem in white Teflon surrounded by floating ink and covered with sapphire glass. Now you’re wondering about the brush, right? The cone is remodelled as a calligraphy brush, made of goat and synthetic hair, stabilized with translucent lacquer. Important detail, the one about the goat hair. Because, you will see, in the next variant the brush hair are made out of a different material. And this shows the incredible attention to detail by the creator of these writing instruments. The Au 750 solid champagne-tone gold clip with a wood inlay is lasered with Chinese symbols reminiscent of the narrow bamboo strips that scribes used to write or draw on. The fine engraving on the precious Kalahari jasper revolving barrel ring is dedicated to the tale of Lady Meng. And now… ladies and gentlemen…
The Ming dynasty
Even as a kid, I think I was 6 or 7 years old, and was reading an uncle Scrooge comic. At one point, someone crashed into a Ming vase. Evidentially uncle Scrooge wasn’t happy about it and was telling the dude how expensive this vase was. Somehow this impressed me and since then, the Ming dynasty was always part of my interests. The Ming dynasty (1368-1644) changed the face of China, as well as the Great Wall itself. Chinese art and culture flowered during this time, giving rise to many traditional artworks associated today with high Chinese culture. A period of beauty and prosperity. An expression of this tradition, enamel cloisonné and champlevé techniques have been used to achieve the colourful decorations on the cap and barrel of the writing instrument, evoking elaborate Ming enamel painted vases. Take a minute to observe these colors. Aren’t they mind-blowing? As a special feature of the Limited Edition 5 Imperial, the cone contains a calligraphy brush made of squirrel hair stabilised with translucent lacquer. This part can be exchanged with a real brush so that the writing instrument can be repurposed as a Chinese calligraphy brush. The squirrel hair are softer than goat hair and therefore much more comfortable to use. Now, have a look at the cap. A skeletonized and hand engraved cap top inspired by imperial hat jewellery from the era opens (!) to reveal a precious approx. 1.8 carat brilliant-cut diamond. The traditional symbol of protection as powerful as the Great Wall itself, a 3D hand engraving of the Chinese guardian lion adorns the Au 750 solid yellow gold movable clip.
Even though, we should be already at the top of the range with the Ming dynasty, Montblanc has taken the freedom to create a Limited Edition 1 Imperial. Yes a one-piece edition to crown this absolutely incredible tribute to the world’s longest man-made and over 2200 years old monument. Like a twisting dragon, the Great Wall of China winds over ridges, hills and steppes, with scattered sections of this ancient bulwark collectively extending over 20,000 km – half the circumference of the Earth. This magnificent fountain pen evokes a dramatic vision of the Great Wall twisting like a massive stone dragon over a vast landscape. A riot of gems and precious stones. Inspired by traditional Ming dynasty artwork, the dragon metaphor comes to life on the Au750 solid yellow gold cap and barrel in a pavé of sapphires, rubies, tourmaline and diamonds ranging in colour from yellow and red to shades of blue and turquoise. As a homage to the traditional royal instrument used in Chinese rituals and court music, a hand crafted miniature music box that plays music inspired by the sound of chime bells has been masterfully placed within the cone of the writing instrument and is decorated with pavé-set blue sapphires. And the cap? Well, A 4.69ct brilliant cut diamond crowns the edition set in the skeletonised and hand engraved Au 750 solid gold cap top, symbolising a dragon’s claws holding the diamond. Again, a Chinese guardian lion, traditional symbol of protection as powerful as the Great Wall itself, is depicted in a 3D hand engraving on the Au 750 solid yellow gold movable clip. Only negative side of this writing instrument: limited to 1 (one) piece. Congratulation to the lucky owner. Enjoy every minute with it.
Even though there are other dozens of details to write about on all the editions, if you have reached this part of the post, you probably agree with the title. No word is needed. Just observe admire and enjoy the magnificence of these piece of art. Because China isn’t about industrialization and bad copies. China is a country of incredible culture, art and natural beauty. Can’t wait to visit it again.