Ground Control To Major Tom, “Help Is On Its Way!”: Astrograph By Caran d’Ache and MB&F
by Ian Skellern
When we think of anachronistic, seemingly useless-in-the-digital-era objects, if you are a Quill & Pad reader (as you obviously are) a mechanical wristwatch is likely to be one of the first things you think of.
And with a few Germanic exceptions, for high-end watch brands Made in Switzerland can be taken as a given, and that’s despite the relatively high cost of Swiss manufacturing.
It’s hard to think of an anachronistic object, especially one manufactured in Switzerland, more unlikely to succeed today than a high-end mechanical watch.
But there is one. Make that two.
Pens & pencils
There are two other anachronistic, seemingly useless-in-the-digital-era objects being manufactured in Switzerland that are known for their Swiss-watch levels of quality: pens and pencils. What could be less in demand in this era where words, symbols, and art are all drawn on computers, large and small?
Caran d’Ache is a Geneva-based manufacture of pencils and pens, including fountain pens. And Caran d’Ache is a manufacture in the true sense of the word: the brand’s pencils arrive at the Swiss factory as planks of timber and tons of graphite; the components for the pens are made in-house like watches from the most vertically integrated watch brands.
And like the vast majority of high-end Swiss watch brands, Caran d’Ache does what it does well and tends to be conservative: the pencils, pens, and other objects it makes are all “traditional.”
But there is a Geneva-based watch brand that is the very antithesis of conservative: MB&F. And when MB&F and Caran d’Ache get together, the offspring is unlikely to look even remotely traditional.
Make yourself comfortable and get strapped in because the Astrograph is blasting off!
Yes, there are many watch collectors who also collect fountain pens, but there have been few memorable watch brand/fountain pen brand collaborations. Until now.
Hang on tight because the Caran d’Ache and MB&F Astrograph is extremely memorable.
When MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser had the idea for a rocket ship fountain pen, he knew there was only one brand to make it: Caran d’Ache. Like MB&F, Caran d’Ache is not just Swiss, but Genevan, and the writing instrument brand is likewise committed to high quality. And Caran d’Ache is a Geneva manufacture exporting internationally.
That initial concept took Caran d’Ache and MB&F nearly four years to refine and develop; time well spent.
First there is the “launch pad” case that looks like a scientific rocket launch pad supported on three struts. Opening the lid reveals the Astrograph pen (fountain pen or rollerball) and a little magnetic astronaut. A close-up image of the moon on the inside of the cover provides the appropriate backdrop.
Taking the Astrograph out and closing the lid, a small catch at the top of the latter deploys the three struts. These fit into three tiny holes around the center of the landing pad. Now the Astrolab is ready and waiting.
To access the pen, you simply unscrew the top of the rocket. While the Astrolab looks like something from space, the pen is reassuringly traditional in its balance and comfort in the hand.
In a touch of fun, the little magnetic astronaut attaches to the outside of the rocket for what would make for a very wild ride!
Further reading: Swiss Made: Geneva’s Caran d’Ache Soon To Celebrate A Century.
For more information, please visit www.carandache.com/en/universe.
Quick Facts Astrograph
Models: roller pen and fountain pen
Finishes: high gloss rhodium plate (fountain pen only), matte rhodium plate (fountain pen or rollerball), and anthracite color (fountain pen only)
Fountain pen: fitted with ink pump, but may also be used with cartridges
Rollerball: Caran d’Ache roller cartridge
Nib: rhodium-plated 18-karat gold
Launch pad box: inspired by a spacecraft launch pad
Limitation: 99 pieces
Price: 21,000 Swiss francs (including VAT)