Words can’t express my feelings when I saw the landing page of this pen during my trip to the 2017 Commonwealth Pen Show. The bus was wobbling out of Manhattan at 4 am; everything was black except my cellphone screen which hurt my eyes. However, I was still up cause I was mind boggled by this brand, Live in You. I knew their MiTu line I had just seen is an excellent Edison style pen, but where did the design of this UNSEEN come from? One thing was for sure, the design looks good. I ordered it along with a whole bunch of MiTu pens, right in the wobbling cabinet.
Let’s cut to the chase: this is the most aggressive design ever achieved by a modern Chinese pen brand. The plan is a fusion of the classic fountain pen formula with a metalwork craftsmanship which, somehow managed to be both facetious and solemn. But acknowledging its hefty $313 (2,080 RMB) price tag, you may probably go to experience a strong sense of illusion and suspicion: “Is it that good?”
The answer is somehow yes and no. For starters, the UNSEEN is indeed asking too much for a #6 steel nib unit, no matter how impressive its chassis is. Since there is already a wide range of offerings from well-accepted brands in the same price level or much less, it will be too risky a decision to go for this one rather than, say, a Pelikan M600. However, for pen veterans who have already tried a comprehensive collection of mainstream brands, the UNSEEN undoubtedly worth a second thought.
The first impressive feature of this pen is that eighty-percent of its main barrel and cap was covered with well-carved metal material. I must concede that I am not sure what specific technique was involved in achieving such a high level of identical small triangle surface pattern. CNC lathing, grinding or planing? I just don’t know. The item description says it used “Metal carving and electroplating,” which wasted a chance to explain the behind-scene story of this intriguing pattern to the pen addicts. Why am I so interested in the processing of the metal surface? Cause they plainly look right, at least from a mechanical perspective. For the hundreds of the small triangle surfaces, every single one of it is identical to each other, with three clear-cut edges and points, and colored evenly, without any flaw. If not in person, I can hardly believe they are real surfaces rather than digital renderings in modeling software. And if you do end up in using this pen, these little triangles will orchestrate a symphony of shifting light and shade, constant-changing triangles and parallelograms, which is addictive.
Zoom out from the metalworks, you will see have almost every other part of the pen covered by swirl-pattern acrylic. Its pattern matches the metal trim correctly since it has some white and black accents, which resonate with the light and shade effect of the main body. I am happy to find out there are even some intentional touches of the acrylic material in my pen to line it up with the corresponding section of the pen. The ending finial of the main barrel has a long part of the acrylic material, also tapering more, making it comfortable to rest on your palm when writing un-capped.
If you write the pen with the cap posted, it still feels acceptable, despite all the metalworks it bears. The whole pen weighs 42g, which is 9g more than the Pilot Metal Falcon and looks challenging on paper. But thanks to its regular grip shape and the tapering design mentioned before, which enable the cap to set deeper. Talking about the cap, it also features a spring-loaded clip, which is a rare thing for a Chinese brand. This clip is a single piece of metal, and it clips snuggly.
The writing system is a Schmidt writing system with a big #6 nib and its capable feed. This nib is no doubt a huge improvement from the smaller version used by the MiTu line, and it performs as good as what you will find in a Franklin-Christoph Model 02, but I am still not fully satisfied with it— it comes only gold-plated and in F. With a royal blue dominate almost every inch of this pen, the mere existence of a shining goldtone screw up the whole picture, at least in my lens. And what is the point of having a grandiose pen like this to lay down a fine line? I wish it were fitted with something bold and strong.
I tried to replace the Schmidt nib with another one, a silver B size nib from my Kaweco Supra. But then I found this nib unit uses a proprietary mortise and tenon design, which prevents it receive another factory’s nib easily, even it is also a #6 nib. Since I didn’t have additional Schmidt nib unit handy, I ended up in scratching the gold plating out of the nib and polish it again… It was a tedious process. After filling the pen with Aurora Blue Black ink, I felt the last piece of this artwork is finally in place.
Since my purchase of this pen, I have found the company updated three variants. Among them, I have found the UNSEEN-GRAY entirely something since it replaces the blue acrylic with a dark material with a satin texture to match the grey/black color of the metalworks. Thanks to the Singles Day, the UNSEEN series is currently on sale at Taobao.
But before you close the tab I want to turn back to my first argument. The UNSEEN’s goodness mostly bears in its exterior design and the precision level of executing that design, which could catch the eye of fountain pen collectors for sure. But besides its unseen appearance and industry standard best practice for a designer pen (#6 nib unit from Germany), does it worth the money if you pay in full price? It lacks branding inside-out, and the brand itself is still less mentioned both inside and outside China. That last element makes the whole calculation of its value proposition hard to complete. When you are buying this pen, are you buying a demonstration of manufacturing muscle of the pen industry, or are you also buying into the future of this young Chinese brand?
We shall see. At least I have made the UNSEEN more visible, and thanks to the Economical Penster and pen lovers from the Big Apple Pen Club, whose constant attention and support motivate me a lot in compiling this article.
Update 11/12/2017: After the Singles’ Day sale, the current pricing of this pen has become friendlier with the full metal carving version priced for $295 (1960RMB) and an half-metal version for $144 (960RMB),which looks fine, actually.