Grayson Tighe Series 1 Pen Collaboration With Blancpain: It’s Carved In Steel!
by Nancy Olson
What happens when an esteemed Swiss watch brand collaborates with a creative young Canadian pen designer?
That’s just what occurred in 2006, and the result was an incredible timepiece-inspired pen that made its debut in 2007.
Blancpain, while steeped in a significant Swiss heritage that dates to 1735, regularly peers outside the box of tradition, seeking challenge, inventiveness and even provocativeness in the design of its watches.
So it isn’t surprising that the company decided to team up with another provocateur, pen maker Grayson Tighe, to produce a collection of limited edition pens.
“I grew up around the custom knife industry [Grayson’s father is renowned knife maker Brian Tighe], so I was familiar with craftsmanship and metalwork,” says Tighe, whose pens are considered some of the most finely crafted in the world and indeed the most visionary.
“This led to a fascination with fine Swiss watches since the workmanship is very advanced. When I started making pens in 2000, the materials and craftsmanship of knives and watches was the inspiration for my work. I wanted to create my dream pens.”
And so did Blancpain CEO Marc Hayek.
Reaffirming his lifelong passion for watches, Hayek said at the time that he was “passionate about pens as well.” But the time to produce one under the Blancpain name had not yet arrived.
Then, in the spring of 2006 for whatever corporate, creative or cosmic reason, the moment became the right one.
“Finally, we could do this project,” Hayek explained, adding that it was Tighe’s evident love of pens and his exquisite artistry that convinced him he’d found the perfect partner.
Also captivated by the Grayson Tighe Steel Crystal and Odin Eye Damascus pens, Hayek sought an amalgamation of the techniques and materials used to create them.
Hayek, too, found the artistic approaches and methodology of the two brands to be notably similar: both are grounded in tradition and both create their respective products from beginning to final cut.
“Blancpain knows the nuances of fine design,” said Tighe of the collaboration at the time. “And Blancpain gave me all the latitude I could ever need to deliver my designs to suit their eyes . . .” The result is a bold melding of centuries-old ideals and contemporary elucidation.
Grayson Tighe Blancpain Series 1
The resulting first-series Blancpain/Tighe pens are crafted from grade 5 titanium, Damascus stainless steel, 18-karat red gold, and mother-of-pearl.
While each is clearly a fine writing instrument meant to be used and enjoyed in its own right, the collection is also a tribute to the mechanics and design of a fine wristwatch in the details. And these details is where Tighe excels.
Some of the more obvious elements evocative of a timepiece include the crown of the pen – which is reminiscent of a watch crown – the use of screws, the mother-of-pearl moon phase display-inspired details, and the blind cap (removable end of a barrel covering the filling mechanism) reminiscent of a watch pusher.
The font used for the limitation numbering of the pens is the same as that found on the watches, and, in a feat of precision, the pen’s threads are all clocked in quarters: 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock – and the patterns line up closed or posted.
Even the finishing of the pen recalls the finishing found on Blancpain movements and dials. Each bears both “Blancpain” and “Tighe” on the cap band in testament to the invaluable contributions of both watchmaker and pen maker.
And much like fine watches, the pens reveal the vast extent of themselves slowly and meaningfully.
“My design philosophy is to remain very subtle, with tasteful elements that you gradually notice over time,” said Tighe. “They must flow naturally and have deeper meaning, which shows skill and creativity.”
Deeper meaning of Blancpain Series 1
This first collection of pens was important to Tighe for a reason other than the obvious challenge and the headiness of partnering with a revered watch brand. It was also a coming of age of sorts.
“The first series was made at an important time in my life. I was 24 and had just bought my first house and created my own workshop away from my father’s knife-making workshop,” Tighe explains.
“With this I was able to acquire the specific tools that I wanted and really research and take risks to develop my work, which is continually evolving. So the first series was a test to match the ‘Swiss-made’ knowhow and handwork in a writing instrument. It also represented my ‘graduating’ and carrying on the tradition [of artisanship] as the next generation in my family.”
Four series of Blancpain/Tighe pens have thus far followed the first, each unique in its interpretation of a luxury timepiece-inspired pen, proving that the collaboration has indeed been a fruitful one.
Tighe sums it up: “Both Blancpain watches and my pens are made by hand by passionate artists and craftsmen. They are not industrial products, but timeless creations that may be passed on to the next generation. Those who own and use them are always seeking perfection, have a message to communicate with the world, and want to express their unique identity.”
For more information, please visit www.graysontighe.com/gallery-blancpain.
Quick Facts Grayson Tighe Blancpain Series 1
Editions: fountain pen, convertible pen
Cap and barrel: grade 5 titanium, Damascus stainless steel, 18-karat red gold, and mother-of-pearl inlay
Nib: 18-karat gold
Limitation: 35 pens each, fountain and convertible
Availability: in Blancpain boutiques, please contact for availability and pricing