So as mentioned in a previous post I have a Montblanc 146 that has been languishing with a faulty piston seal for several months now. As I said in the post the pen never really got a huge amount of use and I had slightly mixed feelings about actually using the pen. However I had the epiphany a few weeks ago that whether I was going to keep it or going to sell it really it needed a service to get it into working order. Before doing this I had a quick scout around for some up to date information on the whole process, and couldn’t find a great deal, so I thought I’d try and write some.
The first thing I noticed about the whole process is that Montblanc really seem to try and funnel you into dropping the pen off in person, most of their official literature about servicing is angled that way and you have to do a bit of digging to find out about posting a pen off yourself. For me this wasn’t the biggest of deals, but it does seem a bit odd as presumably not everyone lives super close to a Montblanc boutique (for me it was a four hour round trip). I’m not really sure why they do this, there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to doing it, I mean I guess they can ask you what is wrong with the pen, but I didn’t see them taking notes when I told them and it wasn’t anything I couldn’t have put on a servicing note. The pen shop I went to has a bit of a reputation locally for not always having the most chatty service, so maybe I’d have been more up for it if I’d got to talk pens for a bit when I dropped mine off.
In the shop I asked about Montblanc servicing, which seemed like a well rehearsed routine for them, they gave my pen a very quick once over, checked it’s authenticity and asked me to fill in a carbon copy form with my details and that was pretty much it. I did mention that it had a problem with the piston, but that didn’t seem to prompt much of a response, possibly due again to them not being the chattiest shop. Oh and I should mention at this point they estimated the service would be about £90. This seemed a bit steep to me, I only paid £180 for the pen so paying 50% again seemed like quite a lot. That said that’s not the route Montblanc expects you to use to acquire on of their pens, so I don’t feel it’s something I can complain about.
The next stage was the waiting, it was about three weeks which was exactly what they had estimated when I dropped it off, the only slightly odd thing was that originally I was told I’d be emailed with a quote before any work was done on my pen, then I’d agree to it and they’d proceed. This didn’t happen for me, possibly because when they estimated they said £90 and that’s exactly what it ended up being, and I had sort of said that £90 was ok in the shop. Far from a massive criticism, it just would have been nice to have had some interim communication, especially as it was suggested that there would be some.
Anyway three weeks later I get an email saying my pen is ready for collection and could I please pay the £90. This was all fine and I asked if rather than me coming in to pick it up could they send it to me, they said this would be fine, so long as I paid the postage costs, this was a nice little extra touch which they didn’t have to do for me. There was only one fault I’d pick up on with this stage, which was actually paying. This pen shop is a certain, more old fashioned type, they barely have a website, they trade very much on foot traffic, stock generally higher end pens and I don’t think are too aware of the fountain pen Renaissance going on, much less how to capitalise on it. So when I asked how to pay I was told by ‘phone. I don’t really like paying by phone, I have to do it on my lunch break, read out my card details in a semi-public place, it’s just not something I like to do. I asked if they had Paypal, to which the answer was no, so I paid by phone. Again not a massive deal, to be honest it’s more something that saddens me, pen shops like this really need to move with the times a bit more if they want to flourish going into the future.
A couple of days later I picked my pen up from the post office early in the morning and took it to work (I’d even brought a bottle of ink in so I could ink it up straight away). Actually I couldn’t wait to see my pen again, so I opened it up on my bus in, just to have a look. I have to say I was impressed, the pen looked pretty much like new, and the piston felt smooth (not that there was any ink involved yet). There was a photocopied letter from Montblanc accompanying it, which gave a slightly confusing breakdown of the work done as well as saying that the service came with a 12 month warranty. I like both of these, yes the breakdown is a little confusing, but it is nice to know vaguely what work has been done on your pen. The 12 month warranty is also something I’m impressed by, it gives you some confidence in the work done, as well as giving you something to go back to should anything go wrong.
Now, on to what they had actually done to my pen. They have definitely fixed whatever this piston issue was, there is no more leaking and it’s nice and smooth now, so a big tick there. I think the forepart means section, so I’ve got a new one of them, it looks like they replaced the resin bits of the cap, and on careful inspection I think I might have got a new barrel too, although possibly this is just the result of a very thorough polishing. Ultimately I’m impressed, but there are a few things I’d like to pick up on.
- I got a lot done for a service, so in a way I feel like £90 was a fair price, on the other hand I’m not sure if I needed all of it (I’m 99% sure there wasn’t anything wrong with the section). I guess what I mean is I would probably rather have had less done and paid a bit less, but I’m aware that’s not how Montblanc operates.
- Getting so much new stuff for £90 is great if you’ve bought your pen second hand and want to get it looking like new, but I feel like if I had been given this pen years ago as a present for say graduating Uni or something then I don’t think I’d want Montblanc to be essentially replacing half the pen every time it went in for a service. If you’ve got unusual parts, like an ebonite feed or a celluloid body there are tales of them being ‘upgraded’ with modern parts. So yeah, whether or not this is a good thing is kind of up to you.
Ultimately I’m happy with my servicing experience, they did a good job, with a good turnaround time, serviced my pen without any proof of purchase or anything and have given me a 12 month warranty. £90 is not an insignificant amount of money, I think you get your money’s worth, but I’m not quite sure if they need to replace as much as they do. That said if you don’t mind the cost and having a bit of a ship of Theseus situation with parts being replaced then I’d go for it.
N.B in doing the research for this blog I found the official Montblanc prices for servicing and it looks like the work I had done would have cost £68 had I sent it direct to Montblanc. I’m not particularly annoyed by this, ultimately I agreed to £90, however it may be worth bearing in mind that if you go through the process of dropping it off at an authorised retailer you may pay a premium for doing so. If this would bother you I’d maybe try and check with the shop before you drop it off with them.