Visconti Mirage, Coral Red, B Nib – Overall: 7.4/10
I’m not sure I qualify as a Visconti junkie, but I’m not far off. I don’t make a point to buy every Visconti I can, but over the years I’ve collected many of the popular models–and a couple of the very limited pens are the highlights of my collection. This wasn’t a conscious decision–I guess the designers at Visconti speak to my definition of beauty. So when I saw there were some new pens coming out in 2018-19 I was certainly keeping an eye out. The Mirage is the first of these new pens, and over the holidays, I kept my eyes open for good deals, and I was able to pick up the Visconti Mirage for just under $100US. It is my 16th Visconti.
This is a review of the Mirage–not a comparison–but since this pen is so new, I’ve included some comparisons to two popular Visconti Pens–the Rembrandt, and the Van Gogh (modern). I’ve chosen these because, taken as a group, the Mirage, Rembrandt and Van Gogh represent the lowest cost pens from Visconti’s lineup, and they all come with steel nibs.
From that chart you can see that the three pens are roughly the same size and weight. There’s nothing surprising about this, and most pens that aren’t described as pocket pens or oversized pens are probably roughly in this range, but as this is a new design and a new material–this specific acrylic–it’s worth noting how it sizes up to similar pens.
Since I received the pen a couple of months ago, I’ve had it inked up–more or less continuously–with 4 different inks, each from a different ink manufacturer. So it’s safe to say I gave the pen a thorough test. I did have two problems with the pen–one was cosmetic and one dealt with flow–which are detailed below, in the appropriate sections. Both were fixed quickly, and for free, though they did affect the score.
The beauty of the Visconti pens was one of the things that drew me to them years ago. The Homo Sapiens is one of the few basic black pens that I’ve ever found beautiful, and the acrylics of the Van Gogh pens are just gorgeous. The acrylic of the Visconti Mirage, while not as gorgeous as it’s pricier cousins, is still quite nice, with a depth that is usually reserved for pens that are more expensive.
It seems they’re also trying out some different pen shapes this year. The body is slightly faceted–three facets, alternating between three non-facets. When closed the Mirage has a slight bulge at the middle that looks quite nice. And when open there is a large step from the barrel width down to the section, but they’ve smartly moved this narrowing back so no matter where on the section you hold the pen, the step shouldn’t be a problem. However, when the pen is posted I think the bulge makes the overall profile look a bit strange–something I’ve noticed with all of Visconti’s newly announced pens. Since I don’t post my pens, it doesn’t really matter to me, but it might to you.
Two significant changes–compared to the older Viscontis–are the clip and the MyPen finial
I’ve heard so many complaints about the Visconti Bridge Clip that it’s become white noise. Mention Visconti and someone will complain about the clip. I’ve never had a problem with it. But with the Mirage, Visconti has redesigned it. As you can see the clip now extends up and over the cap of the pen (actually it did in the older pens, too, but that was covered up by the finial). There are some other changes to the clip that I’m not completely up on, but I’ve heard that some people think there’s an improvement and some don’t. I didn’t have a problem with the old one, nor do I have a problem with this one.
They’ve also moved the MyPen finial from the top of the cap, to the end of the barrel. I have mixed feelings about this move. One one hand, now when I write–unposted–I get to see the finial. So that’s great. However, when it’s in my display case, in my carry case, I don’t see it at all.
The acrylic feels great, and I like that the metal sections of the Rembrandt and Van Gogh have been replaced with the acrylic section. The magnetic cap now has three channels that keep the cap from spinning when the pen is closed, and these grooves are placed so they don’t interfere with the writing.
It’s a pretty pen–if not as beautiful of some of the more expensive pens are, and as far as looks go, I’m happy.
The pen looks and feels well-made. The magnetic cap closes firmly and there very little wiggle–and when it’s closed the facets on the body line up with the facets on the cap. The clip, and various rings are secure and look nice. The acrylic is well machined, with no flaws. And everything joins together without risk of cross-treading. Especially at this price point, there are few pens this well-made.
I did, however, have one problem–which is why I scored this a 9 and not a 10. The first pen I got had a chip in the little raised lip around the MyPen finial. I noticed it when I was taking pictures for the first draft of this review. When I contacted Coles of London, this was fixed quickly, and free of charge (shipping, too). Even top-line products occasionally arrive broken, or cracked or chipped, and since it was fixed, and since I have not heard of other Mirages that arrived with imperfections, I don’t want to give this one defect too much weight, however the type and placement of the damage makes me think that the chip came from being dropped during production or packaging, and simply wasn’t caught, and it worries me that this material may chip easily. Past models in this range have usually has metal ends–I’m sure partly for aesthetics–but it’s also helped protect an at-risk part of the pen…and the Mirage doesn’t have that metal end.
8 is my default score for a Cartridge/Converter system, where the end of the section is smooth, making it easy to wipe off after filling. The Mirage meets this criteria. So why is it a 6? The pen shipped with the wrong converter. It should ship with a threaded converter but it shipped with a non-threaded. The problem is, the threads are inside a little metal collar so I didn’t know I had the wrong converter. When I tried to fill it I got a lot of bubbles, and when giving the pen a test drive it ran dry after about 3/4 page of text. After some looking I thought maybe I had a bad converter and I contacted Coles of London. They told me the wrong converter has been included and sent a replacement for free. Since then I’ve filled the pen 3 times and wrote the converter empty with no problems. So once you have the right converter it’s fine, but I’ve read comments from other people who also got the wrong converter, so this is, to some degree, a repeated issue. My guess is this is a new-product-glitch and will work itself out quickly, but it’s an issue you need to watch out for.
The nib is first–and only real problem with the Mirage. This nib represents a new nib for the Visconti line. Frankly I loved the old #5 Visconti nibs. For me, they were the benchmark for #5 steel nibs. I even got my hands on two of the #6 steel and fitted them into other-branded pens, with fantastic results.
This nib is–I’m guessing–a #4, because it’s a little smaller than the #5. It’s also plainer. The engraving leans away from Florentine and toward Art Deco (I’m aware that I’m taking wild guesses at the correct names for artistic styles.). There’s also an odd coding system–above the word Visconti there is one circle for a F, two for a M, and three for a B–which is redundant because F, M or B is engraved under the word Visconti.
So far this is superficial stuff. However, because the nib is smaller, it’s less flexible. It never was a flex nib by any stretch, but there was some flexibility to the longer tines. It’s what I loved about the Visconti steel nibs. They were always Bock nibs, but they were manufactured to specs that differentiated them from other Bock nibs. These? Meh. They’re certainly not bad, and I have plenty of steel nibs that don’t measure up to these. But they’re nothing special. And why? The existing #5 nibs were awesome. And because this is a different size nib, I won’t be able to switch out my own #5 steel nib.
Test Drive: 8/10
Because of the problems I had with the pen at the beginning, I gave it a much more thorough test drive than I normally do for a review. If I’m being honest, I was trying to make it fail, because if it was going to have another problem I wanted to know about it now, rather than later. After 3 complete converters, writing normal speed and as fast as I could (just making squiggles) the pen performed wonderfully. No skipping, the feed kept up with whatever speed I threw at it, and the B nib was wet without gushing or clumping. Every time the pen ran dry I opened it up knowing I was going to find a full converter….but, nope….empty converter…everything’s good.
The weight and size of the pen is good for extended sessions. I might have scored it a 9 (or even higher) if it had that good ol’ #5 Visconti steel nib.
So what do you expect for $127US. I expect decent materials, but good usability–because for that price, I’m hoping for a solid EDC. The Visconti fits that bill, and also manages to be prettier that many of not most of the pens in this range. It’s an easy pen to use, so it would be fine as an entry-level pen, or someone’s first foray into the World of Visconti, then it’s probably not a pen that’s meant to fall in love with. I like the Rembrandt better–mostly because of the nib–but the Mirage is less expensive.
For $127 I expect a good pen, but not a great pen. And that what the Visconti Mirage is.