Blancpain’s Pen Pal: Canadian Pen Maker Grayson Tighe
by Nancy Olson
A watch brand adding writing instruments to its repertoire is not breaking news, but it is notable when a company focuses the same amount of attention and care on its pens as it does on its watches.
Declared the youngest professional pen designer and maker when he founded his eponymous company in Toronto in 2000, Tighe is acclaimed for his classic-with-a-twist design, precision execution, and refined use of materials – with a particular fondness for titanium.
Of course, his show-stopping engraving must be mentioned, since it is here that his discipline as an accomplished craftsman shines brightest. The 34-year-old artist has been handcrafting pens since he was just a kid, learning the basics from his father, custom knife maker Brian Tighe.
“My goal was to make a pen that had the substance and integrity of a precision writing instrument – to be the ‘Blancpain of pens,’ an equal not just an accessory,” says Tighe of the collaboration with Blancpain.
And with no pun intended, he adds, “I enjoy the challenge of working at this caliber.”
The two companies have partnered on five distinct collections thus far, each produced in limited numbers ranging from 17 to 500 pieces. The writing instruments are co-branded, no doubt in a subtle statement of mutual admiration. The Blancpain logo is evident on the cap ring of the pen, and “Tighe” is engraved on the German-made fountain pen nib, framed by his signature acanthus leaf logo.
“My biggest inspiration is to make pens that reflect the design and quality of a Blancpain watch,” he says. “The workmanship of a luxury Swiss watch is a high standard to live up to.”
But apparently not an insurmountable one.
The first edition, introduced in 2007, comprised 35 fountain pens and 35 rollerball pens, each in solid titanium with 18-karat red gold trim, mother-of-pearl inlays, and polished and etched stainless steel Damascus cap and blind cap overlays. A closer look reveals a bit of timepiece iconography – like the mother-of-pearl rotor-style décor.
The second edition, introduced in 2008, was offered in a boxed set together with a 42 mm Blancpain Le Brassus watch, Reference 4213. Just 17 fountain pens and rollerball pens were produced, and again they were crafted in meticulously engraved solid titanium but this time with white gold trim.
The year 2009 saw the introduction of an edition of 50 fountain pens and rollerballs in PVD-coated engraved titanium with 18-karat white gold trim, mother-of-pearl inlays and polished and PVD-coated etched stainless steel Damascus cap and blind cap overlays.
Moving into a sportier mode, and in a nod to the legère luxury prevalent in the current age, the most recent editions use carbon fiber in their designs. These collections are also crafted in titanium but include carbon fiber inlays or overlays (respectively in 2012 and 2013) to add a touch of casual elegance.
“With each edition [Blancpain] gave me basic information on the spirit they wanted to achieve, their preferred materials, and design inspiration from both their watches and my style,” says Tighe. “From there they gave me freedom and trusted me to ‘work my magic.’ I like to surprise them with details they wouldn’t even think to ask for!”
It takes passion to understand passion, which is no doubt why the association between the watchmaker and the pen maker has worked so well. “Nothing compares to the exquisite timeless artistry and craftsmanship of a finely made pen or watch that will most likely be treasured and outlive its original owner,” Tighe explains. “This is about more than a basic utilitarian function; this is about human passion to create the very best quality by hand and tell a story.”
Quick Facts Blancpain Pens by Grayson Tighe, Series No. 5
Editions: fountain pen and convertible rollerball pen
Cap and barrel: solid titanium with carbon fiber overlays
Limitation: 500 pieces each
Price: $3,100 (rollerball), $3,400 (fountain pen); all pens only available in Blancpain boutiques