…”universally recognised scientific achievements that, for a time, provide model problems and solutions for a community of practitioners…”
The Paradigm is the culmination of 18 months of work by Roy van den Brink-Budgen of Izods Pens. This is a good thing: Izods is widely recognised as the leading UK supplier of ‘preloved’ prestige writing instruments: even being recognised in 2018 by the Financial Times’ “How to Spend It Guide as “an e-cache of ultra fine fountain pens”.
Roy founded Izods in 2015 in an attempt to disrupt and improve the ‘preloved’ writing instrument market. A passionate enthusiast for prestige pens, he felt that buying ‘preloved’ was often a risk: online listings with poor photos and sketchy descriptions making it hard to research, while subsequently receiving your dream pen but wrapped in tatty bubblewrap and rattling about in a cardboard box! He wanted to bring the experience and customer service of a Montblanc boutique to the online experience. This ethos of beautiful presentation, expert customer service and world class customer experience remains central to the Izods philosophy today.
Roy told me in a recent interview preparing for this review “We’ve always firmly believed that buying a luxury pen should be an experience, not just a few clicks and entering your card details. That also extends to receiving and the unboxing of a purchase – we want people to be waiting eagerly for the postman, and then when you unpackage the pen, it should still make you feel like a child opening a present at Christmas!”
The Paradigm started out as a simple sketch in a notebook several years ago; even the name was scribbled beside an early sketch. It remained this way for several years as Roy continued to develop his business. That it never quite came to life was simply because he wanted to do justice to the pen and the idea. The Paradigm needed to represent and embody the Izods philosophy: a prestige fountain pen, immaculately presented and delivering an unparalleled experience from the first moment of ownership through to being a pen used daily while still feeling special.
From the basis of his initial sketches, Roy knew what he wanted to achieve: a pen similar in size to the Montblanc 149 or Pelikan M1000 but with a shape that lent itself to comfort, and it had to “scream” Izods – and that meant being bold and doing things slightly differently!
After several years working with pen manufacturers to create a select number of limited editions, such as the Izods x Nettuno trilogy, the Paradigm was ready to be moved from sketchbook to computer based mockup. Roy’s experience of creating custom editions helping him to shape a few revisions to the Paradigm design and concept. Key design elements remained throughout this evolution though: the ink window that was visible even with the pen capped, the desire for it to be a piston filler and the focus on high quality of trim and a flawless finish to the materials.
As a pen retailer, Roy knew he’d have to find a suitable manufacturing partner: one that would deliver on the philosophy of the Paradigm, without taking short cuts and could realise the vision of a truly prestige pen. From his friendship and business relationship with the team at the Maiora Pen Company, Roy had the perfect partner: a company with decades of experience but who would take a “ground up approach” and remain true to Roy’s philosophy and designs.
Choice of materials for the pen was one of the key reasons for the lengthy design process. After initially exploring resin based designs, Roy felt this approach lacked the smooth almost urushi like finish and warmth he so much enjoyed when using a pen. This decision led him instead to ebonite – which is a material that is best able to meet this aspiration. This is a bold decision: traditionally ebonite is well known for being an extremely difficult material to work with, requiring a lot of laborious working by hand and hand polishing multiple times to achieve the correct finish and is normally a black or mottled/marbled subtly coloured material. Although the marbled colours look wonderful they didn’t capture the essence of Izods: boldness & innovation. So, the 5 most vivid colours he could source were chosen, bright, punchy colours in red, green blue, violet as well as a classic deep grey. These are exactly the colours remained unchanged and are the ones you can now find in the finished article.
The other main design aspect of note is the piston filling mechanism. Roy was really keen to avoid cartridge / converters as a nod to prestige pen design. Every year many custom pens are produced all over the world with cartridge converter system – and they are incredibly useful, but a piston filler is a mark of a highly designed and refined pen: something this pen was destined to have. Further inspiration in the piston filler design was taken from Roy’s direct experience working with antique and prestige pens. He sees thousands of pens as year and we takes little bits of inspiration from all sorts of sources. Towards the beginning of 2020 he had a lovely old Osmia pen in, and was reminded how nice it was to unscrew the blind cap from a pen to find the piston knob beneath; a nod to heritage pens of a classical era and different to (for example) a Montbanc 149. This detail made its way in to the design too.
That said, Roy has a huge fondness for early Montblanc pens and liked the way the model number, nib type and other information was heat stamped on to the piston cone. He wanted to recreate this sort of detail in his own pen: so each pen has LE (launch edition) marking and its production number engraved into the blind cap.
Finally, naming the individual colours. Here, Roy has paid tribute to his own heritage. The names he has selected for the the colours of each pen; each relates back to a family meanings from Roys past. Ringstead Red – after the village where he and his wife love to holiday, Grigson Green – relating to Geoffrey Grigson – his fathers favourite author, Baylis Blue – his grandparents surname, Mollus Mauve – from his grandmothers nickname and Geoffers from an old family pet dog.
The end result of the design process: a pen that takes the best of Roy’s extensive experience in the pen business, with nods to historical elements as well as contemporary twists along the way.
Having discussed Roy’s design process and philosophy in detail, I’ll now move onto a more traditional style pen review to discuss it an actual pen. I own 2 (Yes, 2!) of the Paradigm pens. I purchased my first on release in early December – LE01 in Baylis blue with a 1.1 stub nib. In late December, an opportunity to purchase a second Paradigm, also in Baylis blue with a fine nib (LE08) came up; having used the 1.1 stub almost daily the chance to get a second so quickly was too good to miss and sure enough, this too has become a pen I reach for almost every day.
The process of buying a Paradigm begins with the Izods.ink website itself; which is a delight to browse, with clear photos and descriptions. But more than that, if you contact Roy, by email / phone / text his customer experience (service is the wrong term for someone who operates at this level) is exceptional. He is friendly, expert, personable and straightforward and the pride he takes in his work is palpable at every stage in the process – even to the extent of being willing to “hold” for me the LE01 model I wanted, and do a nib swap as part of the cost!
Payment is straightforward, of course and delivery is Royal Mail Special Delivery with Roy keeping a close eye on progress along the way. The pen arrived quickly, well packaged of course and just as he said, opening the Paradigm is a truly wonderful experience. The packaging is the first experience any owner will have and in this case its an experience that left me looking forward to my next Izods purchase even before I had got to the pen itself. Stripping off the the luxurious Izods wrapping revealed a bespoke outer sleeve with artwork commissioned from Tas Kyprianou – a world class photographer and digital artist, known for his punchy use of colour and light, and whose work in this case perfectly capture the ebonite colours used in the pen. Beneath this, the luxurious theme continues with a custom design sliding presentation box in elegant black/grey and a simple red stripe. It all feels solid, classy and exciting.
Inside the box: a nice velvet layered surface with a molded recess and the pen lying (in its protective plastic sleeve) and held in place partly by the moulded recess and partly by a satin ribbon. Very elegant!
Handling the pen for the first time, you are immediately struck by the sheer lustre of the ebonite finish. That it isn’t Urushi seems somehow not to make sense, such is the depth to the colour and level of polish. The pen is weighty, solid, warm to hold and beautifully engineered. I actually found myself holding my breath, then smiling like a child. I have yet to have had this feeling with any pen I own, including my Nakaya, although the Visconti Homo Sapiens almost equals this pen for that initial feeling of sheer class.
Well done Roy; the pen is literally breathtakingly beautiful and tactile, and the first impression is of a pen that could have been sold at 3 times the price without surprising me one jot.
Visually, you can see the classical design elements of both Montblanc and reflected both in the gentle tapering of the barrel, the cap bands and blind cap engraving. You can also detect Italian influences – the clip end is reminiscent of a Delta, Omas or Leonardo, for example, though with a wonderful and dramatic tapering that is all Maiora in feel. None of this is bad; the pen is distinctive and to a design of its own – rather than borrowing these elements they are just subtle influences below the surface and achieve exactly what they need to: a reference linking back to other great pens.
In size terms it is marginally bigger than a Montblanc 149 – i have photographed it next to one for reference, but lighter in the hand, and due to its ebonite body and section, both more tactile and even slightly grippier in that way that ebonite has. It is really nicely balanced in the hand – a hint of weight from the piston mechanism inevitably taking the balance slightly off centre but this is countered by a very well designed taper and an almost imperceptible transition step from barrel onto the gently tapering section with counter flare. The whole shape of this pen looks and feels ergonomic, designed for long writing sessions as much as a flourish of a signature.
One of the key features of the pen is the ink window that is visible, even when the cap is attached. This is inspired; some people will opt for a colour that matches that of the pen, others will go for something that completely contrasts it. This means that either way the ink level is visible and more importantly, there is an element of personalising the pen under your own ownership.
The piston mechanism is found under a blind cap which screws off in 3.25 turns – a little more than I was expecting but means its secure and as its only infrequently removed won’t be a bother. The mechanism itself is positive and smooth and in keeping with a pen that oozes class in its every detail. It also has a little and rather satisfying trick up its sleeve: the handy “click: as the piston arrives at its fully retracted position – which tells you exactly that you have filled the tank to its correct capacity. I love this feature and wish more pens had it. The pen holds an absolute ocean of ink – around 2mL in my experience, so its unlikely to run out on you in that important meeting!
The cap unscrews in 3/4 of a turn – less than I was expecting, but means its quick to use if taking notes or reaching for quickly. The threads are triple start, flat and seamless; the closure is firm and secure and the threads while felt once in the hand are more of a subtle tactile grip than an interruption in the feeling.
The pocket clip is possibly one of the very few areas I have minor quibble with: it is very firm and even with the roller on the end, isn’t always easy to get into a jacket pocket: though once its in, its definitely not going to fall out, but is not difficult to remove either.
Overall the design is… well frankly, the design is awesome! It really lives up to its name as a paradigm; a shining exemplar of what can be achieved with a clear sense of purpose and a true understanding derived from years of experience working with luxury pens.
In common with all that I have said above, the finish is perfect. The ebonite almost glows in the right light; its deep lustrous polish reflecting light softly back at you, drawing you in. The rhodium trim in my two Baylis Blue models are the perfect compliment to the ebonite, again flawless in their execution, attachment and final polish. The joins between parts are even and subtle, the screw theads smooth and noiseless, the piston tactile and positive. There is literally nothing that can be criticised and if this pen came from any grand pen maker of Europe or the world you would expect the same quality.
Finding the perfect nib to go with the Paradigm was a key part of the design process. After selecting ebonite as his production material around 4-5 times more expensive than resin), a gold nib is a worthy partner. The pens are supplied with 18kt single tone Jowo nibs and the Izods brand laser etched on them. Both my 1.1 stub and fine nibs were prefect straight out of the box; smooth with moderate ink flow and no tuning required at all. Again this should come as no surprise given the absolutely flawless execution of every other part of this pen – Roy checks each pen before it leaves his possession to ensure all is as it should be.
Both nibs have a gentle spring due to the 18kt gold, glide wonderfully with just a hint of soft pencil like feedback. This for me is perfect; enough grip of nib on paper that you gain precision without wasting effort; not enough resistance to cause fatigue. In part this is due to the ebonite feed which of course has no trouble in keeping up even when writing quickly. The stub is very crisp; even after almost 1 months almost daily use and 10’s of hours it has precise edges and gives a chisel like line to writing. It goes without saying, no hard starts or skips and in practice the whole pen just sort of writes – quietly getting on with its business without bothering or troubling you. Its a brilliant thing, to find that after so much love, effort and experience has gone into creating a pen this good, this beautiful that it really can just fade into the background when writing sometimes for an hour or more without break.
It won’t surprise you dear that this is the best pen that I own and my favourite pair of pens. This review is really a love letter to a pair of pens that I will never part with, always use and enjoy every day. Barring the tiniest quibble with the pocket clip, I have been unable to find a single detail that is out of place, any element that is unwanted or executed with anything other than a subtle brilliance. This is science and art, coming together to create what is for me, the pefect pen.
You probably have a thousand ways to spend your money when it comes to pens, and of course this pen is only one of many out there – all of them suitable for different people and purposes. But this pen, if you like a larger pen, will feel special at all times, fill dull days with colour and to be something that you will still use decades later. And if you’re not, then look me up, because I will buy yours off you in a heartbeat.
The Izods Paradigm: by name, but more importantly paradigm in execution.
None: both pens were purchased with my own funds, and I have (and will not) receive any recompense, discount or benefit from posting these thoughts about this pen.