Giuseppe Aquila, the CEO of Montegrappa, tells Selina Denman why he pays no heed to those who say there is no room for writing instruments in a digital world
The priceless pen that doubles up as an action figure
The pen may well be mightier than the sword, but by combining both elements in its latest creation, Montegrappa may just have created the mightiest pen of them all.
The Samurai is part-writing instrument, part-objet d’art and part-action figure. Inspired by Japan’s famed warriors, it comes clad in a historically accurate suit of armour, painstakingly rendered through the ancient lost-wax technique, which is more commonly used in jewellery-making. As a result, the suit’s “kuwagata” helmet, “kote” sleeve armour and layered, embroidered “kusazuri” skirt are recreated in unfathomable detail.
Three years in the making, the Samurai is limited to 177 pens in silver and seven in solid gold. It exists only as a fountain pen and is fitted with an 18k gold nib. Each comes in a black lacquer box, with the ancient character for samurai printed on its top. It is accompanied by a bottle of ink and a katana sword that acts as a fully functional paper cutter.
Samurai is the first model in the Warriors collection – which was conceived to celebrate the most noble combatants throughout history – and will be available from this month at Montegrappa’s newly opened store in The Dubai Mall. The 720-square-foot facility in the new Fashion Avenue extension is now the brand’s Middle East flagship and – for those who like their pens a little more streamlined than the Samurai – offers plenty of opportunities for customers to create bespoke writing instruments.
The brand’s existing Atelier service allows you to choose one of three options – Amphora, Extra Bespoke and Arte – as the base for your design, and you can then opt to have specific images or symbols hand-engraved or painted on to it. This might be a picture of a loved one, a favourite pet, a personal symbol or sign, or in the case of the Arte service, an old masterpiece. “This is geared more towards art collectors and allows them to reproduce, on their pen, part of their collection. They might not be able to carry their favourite painting around, but if they want to keep it close to their heart, we can reproduce it on their pen,” explains Giuseppe Aquila, chief executive of Montegrappa.
The idea of one’s writing instrument being close to one’s heart resounds with Aquila, who is the third generation of his family to be involved in the business. “I’m often asked about technology, but when you write something, you really record it in your memory. It’s a very important ritual – the one of writing. It’s the best way to express your emotions. You keep the pen close to your heart because it is in touch with your inner soul,” he explains.
To that effect, those who are anticipating the demise of the pen in an increasingly technology-dominated world, could yet be proven wrong. “Millennials and the younger generation are understanding the importance of writing. Even on social media, there is a lot of buzz about calligraphy,” Aquila points out. “This has generated a lot of interest, and in the last two years, we’ve seen a 60 per cent increase in the sales of fountain pens.”
The company has responded with increasingly sophisticated creations. “We’ve taken it to new levels,” explains Aquila. “Our development is now towards what we call ‘complicated’ pens, so just like you have complicated watches, we are doing the same thing with pens – adding new features to the pens that make them more unique and more appealing for collectors.”
The Samurai is a prime example of the brand’s artistic creations, but so is the Revolver, which was inspired by the weapon, and has a chamber with mock bullets inside it that can be spun around. The Q1, meanwhile, is a fountain pen that can write with four different colours of ink.
Montegrappa has a long history of creating special and limited-edition writing instruments, whether they are celebrating novelist Ernest Hemingway’s seminal work The Old Man and the Sea, the UEFA Champions League or individuals such as political leader Nelson Mandela, author Kahlil Gibran and artist Salvador Dalí. This year, the brand created a Year of Zayed pen to commemorate the Founding Father of the UAE, and has also created the Ishy Bilady, which features words from the UAE’s national anthem in Arabic calligraphy across its barrel and cap.
Aquila notes that the average age of pen collectors in the UAE is younger than in other parts of the world, and that “they are very adventurous in their purchases, which makes it very interesting”.
These collectors will have plenty more to experiment with in the coming months. “We have developed a platform that we will be launching towards the end of the year, where you can configure your own pen – across more than 200,000 different combinations,” Aquila reveals. “You can choose the material for the cap, the colour for the barrel, you can mix and match, include your zodiac sign, or your initials, stones and colours – you can really dress it up any way you want, to match your personality.”