Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Visconti Homo Sapiens Florentine Hills Review


In late 2009, Florence-based luxury pen maker Visconti announced in a press-release covering a nib made of 95% Palladium (23k) alloy. Commonly available nibs are 14k/18k/21k Gold alloy (Sailor), with a few exceptions (Danitrio & the Japanese karat warriors), and this was the first of its kind perhaps after the Esterbrook or Sheaffer PdAg nibs.

The other side of the snippet showcased a pen christened with a name of Homo Sapiens(HS), which was forged from an equal mix of basaltic lava and resin, adorned with bronze and protected from competitors by a patent. The lava came from Mt. Etna (one of the active volcanoes) on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. 

I came to know of the HS a few years later. Visconti (estd. 1988) promised the HS lava to be unbreakable, flameproof (upto 100°C), albeit with a slightly hygroscopic body, oxidation prone bronze trims, but with a corrosion-resistant titanium power filler. The available designs now range from lava plus bronze/steel/black PVD to a 388-limited edition (bronze LE) or some 1000-LEs Crystal Swirls or Florentine Hills or 888-limited-London Fog (made up of Acroloid/Sterling Silver). Besides, fountain pens there are also roller-balls and ball-point pens in the HS range, but those, of course do not concern our primary interest. Initially after getting a HS in bronze, I was always on the lookout for one of these beauties in silver trims.

DESIGN (6/6) 


Visconti started the Homo Sapiens in Bronze & Lava as an homage to the evolution of mankind. Bronze Ages predates us by around five thousand years is the period, when humans began smelting and mixing of metals like copper and tin, to produce alloys like bronze. Also during that particular period, a system of writing/recording had evolved, mostly through the use of symbols. The trim-fittings including the HS Bronze clip are all made of bronze. 

                      The Florentine Hills carries the same design but is an acrylic demonstrator fused with ribbons of coloured celluloid suspended within - thereby the nomenclature acryloid. The ribbons range from light green to vivid tinges of yellow and reddish brown. 
These colours remind of meanderings through vineyards and olive groves, from the beechwood forests to the grassy groves of the countryside. The splendid works of Tuscany art and those picturesque landscapes somehow seem to share quite a common inspiration in spirit. 
                     A large silver centre-band at the start of the grip section with a HOMO SAPIENS imprint is followed by the particular LE number of the piece. So it’s typically XXX/1000 unless you ended up with the thousandth piece. The overall shape tapers towards the ends where you can enjoy the translucency of vivid green. Looks almost photosynthetic! The cap & blind cap might carry some of those celluloid ribbons, in a more subtle manner. 

The taper is more pronounced at the plunger end/blind cap rather than in the cap itself. A sterling silver loop embellishes the design at the start of the blind cap. It’s actually the filler collar. You can perhaps see a drop of Yama Budo :)

The unique locking system of the cap is nothing new if you have tried a HS. The quick hook safe lock threads (six) enable disengaging the cap, with a quarter of counter-clockwise twist. 

That little twist will of course reveal the dazzle of 23 karat Palladium nib and another photosynthetic grip section! A click is heard, once you correctly twist-lock the cap. A view of the inner cap locks

The cap has a spring inside to assist the locking mechanism. The section starts with the upraised locking threads with a faint resemblance to the Greek Key, and then tapers comfortably before ending up with a slightly raised stop. 

The finial mentions VISCONTI with the company trademark of the mirrored V. As always, the medal is customizable via Visconti's My Pen System with your initials or zodiac sign or gemstone (available from $15 onwards). You can pull out the visconti medallion from the finial by using any magnet and replace it with a gemstone of your choice. VISCONTI is embossed within a dark enamel background on both sides of the Ponte Vecchio clip which is made of sterling silver. 

The cap itself has a subtle taper towards the finial. Two spaced silver rings adorn the middle of the cap, dazzling within the greener pastures. The clip is spring loaded and you have to lift it to put it in your shirt pocket. The HS Bronze cap seems to have its own allure. :) 


A silver loop logically separates the blind-cap, from rest of the barrel. On rotating the blind cap till its end-stop, you will be able to pull out a plunger, much like a tethered sword pulled from its sheath. The inside of the blind cap carries a silver insert to run the threads and so that the acrylic is protected from any damage. 

          The plunger rod is made of Titanium, a metal which has proved to be phenomenally resistant to most corrosive of fluids. Titanium rods are often placed as support inserts by dentists, in order to rebuild broken tooth structures! However, the shining filler collar made of sterling silver shines down condescendingly on the rather dull rod. 

The filler collar in the HS bronze is made of titanium with a graphite like dull lustre. 
                                Once you push in the knob with the nib dipped inside an ink bottle, you can feel a surge of ink inside the pen. An ink capacity of around 2.2 mL doesn't allow your favourite ink to last that long, given a generous flow of even for a fine nib! Here you can observe the secondary ink chamber (double walled), which can be loaded/drained into the main chamber, once you pull back the piston seal. My flight experience has been pleasant with a fully filled secondary chamber. So unless one is taking the HS FH to Mars/ISS, one doesn't have to worry about it. The small chamber lasts quite a few pages with the Fine nib and can be filled once the wetness reflects a paucity of fuel! During longer writing sessions or broad nibs, I keep the piston seal open. 


The giant two-tone nib with an usual iridium tip comes in four main sizes – EF, F, M & B along two special widths – BB (double-broad) & Stub (S). The nib has an leverage of around 2.6 cm and it is a #6 Visconti nib. These dreamtouch nibs are manufactured by Bock. Half of them are probably out of touch due to a tine issue or the other!

             At the tail end of the nib, lies the nib width, above which embossed are the specifications of 23k Pd 950 and a word FIRENZE. Firenze refers to Florence in Italy which is the birthplace of both Italian Renaissance and Visconti Pens, thereby its borrowed tagline - The Writing Renaissance

                      Palladium is the dazzling silvery and matches well with the overall trims. Personally though, I prefer the two-tone gold adornment. The silvery finish diverges from the lunar-eclipse breather hole across the inside of the tines and over to the tail. The name VISCONTI lies below the moony breather hole, with splashes of shapes of diamonds, droplets and half-moons to ornament the nib. This one is a fine nib and came with misaligned tines. Now it writes smoothly after adjusting the tines, thankfully I didn't have to send it to Visconti again. 

              The feed is a standard visconti feed with closely spaced fins, carrying the V logo at the delta region. The nib is screw-fit onto the grip section and can be swapped with ease, provided you take care of the tines. It has a bit of flex (which increases with use), although there is not much difference for an EF & F nib, when it comes to line variation with mild pressure. Be careful with over-flexing the palladium nib, it might result in a permanent damage. 

This nib initially ran wet, though it gave a strong feedback at certain angles due to the right tine, which was misaligned. The right tine stood lower than the left. And the width it lay was close to a true EF. That’s was what bewildered me, how come a Visconti Fine write so thin! I bet it was still better than some of my bad sailor nibs! Post alignment of the tines, the width of the lines increased to a true European fine or a Japanese medium and it now runs with heavy juice. 


With a cylindrical body forged out of acrylic and celluloid & adorned with silver rings, it does give an earthly greenish repose. The overall weight has got a significant contribution from the cap due to the silver clip. A girth of around 1 cm is quite comfortable and it’s one of the most comfortable pens for me. As an analogy, the cap itself could be as heavy as a Pelikan m400 fountain pen. The HS bronze is heavier compared to the FH. 

  • Capped Length ~ 14.4 cm 
  • Non-posted Length ~ 13.2 cm 
  • Non-posted Weight ~ g 
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2.6 cm 
  • Overall Weight ~ 37.8 g (HS Bronze ~ 43.7 g) 
  • Overall Weight (inked) ~ 40.1 g 

  • Weight Without Cap ~ 22.8 g (HS Bronze ~ 26.6 g) 
         Comparing capped lengths, the HS (Since HS LEs are Oversize/Maxi) does seem similar to a Pilot Custom 823 (which is not as hefty), a m1000 is there to reference a comparison with the Size#8 nib (its heft is on the higher of HS). 


          Though the Homo Sapiens Florentine Hills sells around USD 800, it is available for lower street prices. I was able to get the pen at a pretty good price, and I don't want your decision to be coloured by this price, apart from discussing it. Still, I do fail to find a great economic value for a piece of acrylic with some silver(@50 cents/gram), even though it does feel great to hold, write and a pleasure to see. I feel the bronze edition is a rather memorable pen to keep. 

OVERALL (4.8/6) 

             One thing regarding the misaligned tines, it was an easy fix for me and did not require specialised services. It’s the most common problem across many luxury brands and sometimes it does run worse. Had it been something worse where I would have had to send the nib back, my rating would have been 1/6 on the nib, 1-for the design. 

           I am used to a few large pens, I like the balance and do not find any problem with either the heft or balance of HS. Personally I like the Lava model more, since the materials and workmanship seem much more elegant. There is some line variation as the #6 nib does render springy softness to cushion mild writing pressures. No hard starts, no skips! The Fine nib lays a line which runs true to its European standards and for a cross-reference it runs more like a Japanese Medium nib. The pen feels well balanced for my hands though it does seem to have a short section for gripping. The hook-safe threads might interfere with your grip, if you tend to hold a pen higher. 

I have used multiple fills of Iroshizuku Yama Budo & GvFC Moss Green inks, and the pen runs rather nicely with Iro. Which pen doesn't :) Being a wet writer out of the box, the Fine nib lays a nice juice but thinner line, which takes around 35 seconds to dry a GvFC Moss Green (I find Moss Green to dry quicker) on MD Paper. 

The flex is evident due to the springy nib, which with a gentle pressure delivers thicker strokes, though the range of strokes run broader with increasing nib-width. Personally, I would have saved up for a Conid in acrylic, but the lure or Palladium/Silver/Acryloid vs a Titanium/Acrylic marched right ahead in my head. Perhaps some day else, since titan is already there.


Thank you for going through the review. 
You can find some more pen and paraphernalia reviews here

No comments:

Post a Comment