Editor’s Note: Narwhal Pens have officially changed their name to Nahvalur. As far as I am aware, no other production or business practices have changed.
So Narwhal came onto the scene (here in the US anyways) not too long ago with a line of piston-filler fountain pens with clear or translucent barrels. I picked one up on a Galen Leather order as something of an impulse addon, a clear demonstrator model obviously. I received the pen, used it for a while, then sent it into the pen case and out of regular rotation. (Having an organized pen case is nice, but I’m a very ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of person. The case is becoming something of a mausoleum.) The experience wasn’t bad, it was just sort of unremarkable. The $40 price tag felt about right for what I got, which is perfectly acceptable for a fountain pen. The Narwhal Original is a good pen, but I don’t really have enough room in my case for good pens.
Then came Nautilus; a limited edition release with a few variants in a unique but familiar design. The Nautilus is an ebonite piston-filler with an assortment of variants available. It has a simple non-posting screw-off cap covering the smooth tapered grip section and #6 in-house nib. The pen has a
plastic metal clip, metal accents, and a unique ink window in the form of three circular cutouts just behind the section. It’s a big pen, and pretty good looking.
The Nautilus uses an “in-house” #6 nib that writes smooth and fairly consistent. The nib unit is at least partially compatible with JOWO #6 nibs. I was able to swap a JOWO into the Nautilus, but the Nautilus nib wouldn’t fit a JOWO feed. A curiosity, but not a deal breaker. The medium steel nib is nail-firm, and writes true to a European medium.
Outside of the pen you’ll see the slim
plastic metal clip and metallic accents. Both are visually nice touches, but the clip is a little too flexible for my preference. It hold onto pockets or pen sleeves just fine, but it bends and contorts under very little pressure. When you’re gripping the cap to unscrew the pen, for example. On the tip of the cap there is a simple metal finial, no logos or branding to speak of.
Writing with the Nautilus is comfortable, especially if you’re a fan of larger pens. This has one of the larger footprints in my collection, but it doesn’t feel too oversized. The grip section is smooth and slightly conical, with a ridge on the end. The cylindrical shape can be a little slick while writing, especially if you are prone to rolling or rotating the pen as you write, but overall it’s a fine writer.
And by fine I mean medium, which is to say the medium nib writes a convincingly medium line. In the past I have generally stuck with extra fine or fine nibs for a handful of reasons, not the least of which was that they felt more true to size when it came to nib on paper. Instances where I’ve tried using a medium nib in the past occasionally involved pens that felt like they had an excess of tipping material. Like the contact area of the nib on the page was wider than the line it produced, and any slight rotation of the barrel could take that nib out of the sweet spot. Narwhal’s medium nib has not had that problem yet in my experience.
It would be fair to say that when you’re spending
$150 $120 on a pen you can expect a level of polish. This pen, my pen, falls a bit short in the fit and finish department. Nothing that effects the writing experience or the overall function of the piece, but little noticeable things that I wouldn’t expect from an item in this price range. The first thing I noticed upon my initial inspection was a slight misfit of the ink windows. As these are one of the unique characteristics of the pen, I noticed almost right away that the small metal rings framing the ink windows are a little uneven. They don’t quite sit flush with the barrel of the pen. Even as I write this, it feels like such a minor thing to complain about. But then again, it’s an expensive pen.
The other issue, if we can even call it that, is that the metal accent ring on the cap seems to have some bits or hard edges that I can’t even feel by hand, but any pen sleeve or roll I try to put this thin in inevitably gets the fabric caught on that ring. Again, this is barely an issue, but I’d expect something in this price range to have a bit more attention paid to the end product. One thing I do feel completely justified in complaining about is the clip. The Nautilus uses a two-piece clip where there is a metal post internally mounted to the cap, and the actual clip bar is attached to that piece. So the clip as a whole is fairly malleable. I don’t love that.
I know I’m a few weeks late on this, and better creators than me have actually done the research, but basically there is a bit of drama between TWSBI and Narwhal that has resulted in Narwhal being phased out of any retailer’s catalog where TWSBI is also present. I’m a pretty outspoken fan of TWSBI, but even I can see that this was a bad move. Even if TWSBI were completely 100% factual with their claims of mechanical copy-cattery, giving retailers an ultimatum to force a competitor out of the market is just… ugly.
THAT BEING SAID, there is apparently some connection between Narwhal Pens and Moonman, the manufacturer of many clone (aka knockoff) pens that, to be generous,. recreate popular pen models from brands like Sailor and Pilot and offer them to consumers a far-lower prices. These clones are typically only found on sites like ebay or amazon where trademark laws are a little harder to enforce. While seasoned pen nerds like myself could give you several reasons to buy the originals over the knockoffs, the average consumer would be justified in wanting to experience, for example, a Capless/Vanishing Point fountain pen without the triple-digit expense. Now maybe Narwhal is Moonman’s attempt to go legit, I can respect that. But their execution is, well, lacking. The suspiciously-named “Narwhal Original” was underwhelming at $40. The Nautilus is about three times the price for about the same experience.
At the end of the day, internet drama and manufacturing schematics aside, the Narwhal Nautilus is just okay. Does the pen look nice? Does it write well? Does it feel comfortable, fill easily, tick all the boxes of a Fountain Pen? Yes. But I think this pen should be about
$60 $30 cheaper. It’s unique enough to have caught my eye, but as I hold the Nautilus up to the rest of my ever-growing collection, it really doesn’t stack up to the other pens in this price point.
It was recently brought to my attention that I’ve been doing this ‘pen blogger’ thing for about six years. Prices have gone up almost across the board in the short time I’ve been in the hobby, but
$150 $120 can get you a better pen than this, and a couple new inks to go with it. In the weeks since purchasing this pen, there have been a few additional limited edition releases in admittedly cool-looking colors. Let the FOMO run its course, this one isn’t worth it.
Disclaimer: The products in this review were purchased at retail price. All opinions are my own. If you liked this review and would like to support the website, please consider using the tip jar.