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History of Montegrappa

The Facade of the Historic Montegrappa Factory

The art of penmanship or writing is for those, who feel the need to connect heart to heart, soul to soul through the fountains of rapturous emotions and deeds that continue to live after us. And it is only for such that a fine writing instrument takes pride of place to cherish the noble art of writing.

It is indeed for the connoisseurs of such art that Montegrappa creates pens that are reserved to cherish the emotions inspired by the feel of a beautifully crafted writing instrument, bringing back the stories of the land known for drama and love, and prolific writers, who have penned innumerable masterpieces that are a testament to the strife for all things beautiful.

The Montegrappa manufacture since 1912 stands in the same historic building on the bank of the River Brenta, in one of the most picturesque areas of the historic town of Bassano del Grappa, in the prosperous northeastern part of Italy. Born out of the war struck area of Bassano, which was a major war zone during World War I, Montegrappa, established as a manufacturer of gold nibs and fountain pens, soon became the chosen one for many soldiers stationed there to write back home. A child of the country's turbulent emotional struggle, Montegrappa and its writing instruments are a part of history and those who have made history such as Vladimir Putin, Benito Mussolini, His Holiness John Paul II, Michael Jackson, Paulo Coelho, Michael Schumacher and more. Whether it is the colours reminiscent of the master painters or the ornaments of Baroque palaces, Montegrappa's collections are inspired by great moments of history and the most ancient passions of mankind.

Left: Giuseppe Aquila, CEO, Montegrappa; Right: The first 500 Batman limited edition pen sets were made available with cufflinks and a wristwatch

Italian Roots

"Italian heritage and pride is at the heart of all of Montegrappa's work," Giuseppe Aquila, CEO, Montegrappa, proudly mentions. The company is named after the mountain on which the Italians made their final stand and successfully repelled the Austrian and German forces during the World War I and therefore, represents the fighting spirit and heroic acts of valour of the brave Italian soldiers. The Grappa Massif, the range of mountains with the Monte Grappa at its peak, was the last strategic position before the plains of the Veneto region, and had 25,000 Italian soldiers not laid down their lives in the defence of their country, a lot would have been lost. This region of North East Italy, between Vicenza and Venice is extremely rich in metal working and handcrafting traditions, handed down through generations. Montegrappa, located in Bassano del Grappa, directly under the Monte Grappa mountain, is in the heart of this important region and benefits from a great wealth of talent and resources.

Speaking about the inspirations at Montegrappa, Aquila is quick to add, "Most often we take inspiration from the wealth of beautiful and cultural riches that we have in Italy, but we increasingly are inspired by ideas and themes from our international customers, who ask us to design products based on concepts from their regions. We take it as a great source of pride that people from all over the world have come to appreciate Montegrappa's unique capabilities to take an idea from concept to design to final production."


Techniques Galore

One cannot help, but see the prolific use of varied manufacturing techniques and exquisite materials used in Montegrappa pens that truly make them one-of-a-kind and elevate them as superior pieces of art. As the only existing company to have the ability to process materials such as celluloid and ebonite that require a specific know-how, which has been developed and preserved over 100 years of history, the brand also brings out the best through other unique technologies like deep-drawing and low-relief engraving. Montegrappa also goes down as the first pen company to introduce the jewellers' technique of lost wax casting in the writing industry and one of the few to have a skilled team of in-house engravers, enamellers, stone setters and miniature painters. "We at Montegrappa are proud to be able to say that we do not really face any direct competition as there is no one who is able to do the sort of work that we do. On some technical levels, our pens are superior to other pens in the luxury writing instrument category, where we have preserved some techniques and use of materials that other manufacturers have abandoned in favour of cheaper, modern alternatives, such as the use of celluloid in parts of our pens, and the use of real carved ebonite for the ink feeders. These are some differentiators, however, the real difference comes from the unique talent pool that we draw from our region, giving us design and style that is truly special," adds Aquila.

What started from scratch, quite literally, as a manufacture for making only fountain pens and nibs, a specialised area, and is still renowned as the best, they have seen a very successful diversification in recent years, with the introduction of watches, men's accessories and jewellery, leather goods, and most recently, a collection of fragrances. However, not losing focus on the writing instrument business, the brand continues to develop their core area of limited edition products that they are well known for. "While our design ideas and inspirations used to be drawn from classical arts and literature, we have more recently started to also develop some limited editions dedicated to more mainstream iconic figures in contemporary history, such as the great Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee and Frank Sinatra," Aquila further elaborates.

Standing the Test of Time

The most important question that comes to mind when on the topic of writing is how does a fine writing instrument fare in this age of technology and e-mails? To answer this, Aquila explains, "We are often asked this question. As we get more sophisticated gadgets and devices, it would seem that the need for a traditional pen is disappearing. However, we are surprised and pleased to find that the opposite is true. As people are getting more used to sending e-mails and text messages, a handwritten note is a great differentiator and really stands out, and is a good way to actually engage someone's attention when they are being bombarded with an onslaught of electronic and completely impersonal forms of communication. We also find that writing by hand is not a need, but a joy and an art, which can be greatly fulfilling and gratifying." Explaining further, he mentions how recent research in brain science shows that the human brain greatly benefits from the neural connections that are created when a person combines the act of putting their thoughts into words with the motor skills required to write by hand. "In fact, this entire subject and field of study fuelled one of our recent creations, the Limited Edition Brain pen. This pen was launched several months ago and comes with a book on the subject written by Dr. Richard Restak, one of the world's leading brain scientists." Cerebral and avant-garde, it is such conviction that goes into the creation of their pens and shows how the renaissance of handwriting remains ubiquitous in the objectives of Montegrappa.

The Sylvester Stallone Chaos Pen

Writing from Scratch

At Montegrappa, each project has a different story and involves different people, especially in the creative part. "I'm personally involved in the creative process and so is my brother and at times my father too. The first step is the idea. In many cases, the idea comes from me or might be suggested by some of our distribution partners. At times, some of my ideas are out-of-the box and the first reaction of my family and our partners is a bit sceptical. The idea is important, but equally important is the ability of expressing such an idea through a product, and in our case a pen," Aquila expresses.

What follows is the second step of putting the idea to paper and trying to encapsulate the concept attached with the idea. Working with in-house designers or at times even with external designers to gain experienced opinions about a specific theme is what brings that added edge to their pens. For all projects, they run extensive research and often employ the services of historians, art experts and intellectuals to make sure that the design not only looks good, but is correct under every aspect.

Going ahead with the engineering process, the brand has a strong team of 10 in-house designers and engineers, who use very sophisticated 3D modelling software to design the different components. The prototyping stage is taken care of by a separate team using dedicated machinery and equipment which leads to the pre-series, a small production run required for quality control. From quality control, it enters the final manufacturing stage to the final product. Speaking about the challenges in the world of fine writing instruments, Aquila once again reminds us that Montegrappa has always been a pioneer in the writing industry. "One of our main skills is the ability to adapt to the fast-evolving market and re-invent ourselves every day. The challenge is to remain true to the original spirit of the brand and at the same time always be at the forefront of the industry."

Mightier than Sword

From heads-of-states, royalty, popes, musicians, actors, sportsmen, writers, artists, celebrities, and top models who share unanimous love as distinguished patrons of Montegrappa pens, the brand has created several limited edition pens featuring unique designs focusing on the life and achievements of various celebrities. "We have been very fortunate that we have had some celebrity customers who have become great friends of the brand and have come to be ambassadors of Montegrappa, through their love and appreciation of our products. Some have been such great lovers of the brand that they actually wanted to be part of the company and have made investments in Montegrappa and are shareholders, such as Sylvester Stallone and Jean Alesi. And there are some who appreciate our works of art and have asked us to make special pieces for them, either as bespoke unique pieces, or as a limited edition product such as the Chaos pen by Stallone, or the Alchemist pen for Coelho. So in reality, the personalities typically choose Montegrappa, rather than the other way around," Aquila explains.

With such a strong philosophy and cerebral backing, the brand's effort in ensuring the longevity of the art of writing, the power of fine penmanship and a highly personal intimate indulgence is surely here to stay.

Photos Courtesy: Montegrappa

Writing History With Montegrappa

Montegrappa has produced the pen of choice for authors including John Dos Passos, Paulo Coelho and Ernest Hemingway. Its pens are used by popes, presidents and royalty. Among these notables are His Holiness John Paul II, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and others.

Montegrappa has produced the pen of choice for authors including John Dos Passos, Paulo Coelho and Ernest Hemingway. Its pens are used by popes, presidents and royalty. Among these notables are His Holiness John Paul II, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei and others.

France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, joins the gathering of incredible personalities who have been proud owners of Montegrappa pens. To name a few, Montegrappa users include Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, His Holiness John Paul II, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, Silvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt, Stirling Moss, Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, Naomi Campbell, Paulo Coelho and countless others.