I have owned OMAS fountain pens for a number of years, and have always held the pen in very high regard. An OMAS pens reflects a high standard of styling and superior workmanship. The OMAS nib has a well established reputation for being smooth and delivering a dependable flow of ink.
A highlight of a recent trip to Italy was a visit with OMAS and a tour of their facility, which is located in the city of Bologna.
I have seen the new OMAS be released and it was of interest to hear OMAS talk about the project to review and update its collection. Over the last two years OMAS has been updating three lines and releasing a new line (the Emotica).
In addition to the redesign of its pens, OMAS has updated its logo to include a stylized "S" — a look that I things gives a sense of movement.
This is a company that is moving forward while respecting and building on its great history and reputation.
Armando Simoni founded the company in 1925. The name, OMAS, stands for Officina Meccanica Armondo Simoni. While the company started as a small workshop it has grown into an internationally recognized pen company.
Armando held an interest in Greek culture, was a skilled technician as well as an artist. This background and interest is evident in the pens produced at the time, and still today. The influence of Simoni's studies in Greek culture can been seen in the classic design of OMAS pens, such as twelve-sided Arte Italiana line. The twelve-sided shape of the pen body won numerous awards and I must say, it is a pleasure to hold. I particularly like the way the pen does not roll off a desktop!
Armando was often heard to say:
and indeed, I can confirm that writing with an OMAS pen is one of the pleasures of writing.
OMAS remains a family business. After Armando's death in 1958, his daughter, Raffaella and her husband, Angelo Malaguti took over the leadership of the company. In 1983, their son Gianluca continued in the role.
In May 2000, OMAS became part of the LVMH Group (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), a French Group producing and selling luxury goods. This partnership allows OMAS access to the benefits of the large LVMH Group while maintaining its own management and operations. OMAS is the only pen company of the LVMH group.
Today, OMAS ranks as one of the world's top respected pen manufacturers. Famous for their, known for classic and clean designs the OMAS pen his highly regarded by pen owners. Christophe Artaux, Chief Executive Officer, Omas
Over the past two years, OMAS has reviewed and issued updated lines of its Arte Italiana, Bologna and 360 lines, as well as releasing anew line, the Emotica. This review and updating of the lines has taken place under the leadership of OMAS President Christophe Artaux.
I had the pleasure of meeting Christophe and in talking with him, his level of pride and enthusiasm for company is very clear. He expresses a commitment to moving the company and its products forward.
I discussed with Marta Cruciani, Marketing Manager, the new look of the four primary lines (Arte Italiana, Emotica, Bologna and the 360) as well as some of the Limited Edition pens. Marta has been with OMAS for the past five years and she also has great enthusiasm and pride in the re-design of the lines.
The questions had to be asked, if the OMAS pens are such classics, why make changes?
As Marta pointed out, pens are changing. While the Arte Italiana line is a classic, to reflect the the modern look of pens today, a larger size was more appropriate. Pick up the new Arte Italiana Paragon and this is very evident.
The redesign also brought forward the inclusion of the new OMAS logo and placement of the "O" icon that is now found on the top of the pens. OMAS Arte Italiana, Paragon
Known as a "faccettata", or "faceted pen", this is one of the best examples of Italian style and craftsmanship. The Arte Italiana has been a highly regarded pen since its original design in 1930. The twelve side of the pen body represent a Doric column. For many pen owners, the Arte Italiana is the OMAS pen.
The new Arte Italiana now includes the distinctive "O" on the top of the pen cap. The pen clip has also been re-invented to be larger and reflect a more dynamic design. The previous three band motif has been replaced with a simpler single band that holds the OMAS logo, the Greek etching, and with the Paragon, simply the name THE PARAGON, ITALY. The end section of the Paragon also has a new look being in sterling silver or gold plate depending on the model.
I found the new larger Paragon has a solid feel with the weight of the pens well balanced towards the nib section. It is comfortable hold and with the good balance you won't feel this pen tilting back in the hand.
I now have two of the redesigned larger Paragons as well as the the slightly smaller Milord as part of my collection (See Pens of Note)
The Emotica line was released in 2007 and represents a bold new look. A well accepted line, this pen has been recognized with awards including "Best Pen-High Design, 2007" based on votes from Pen World readers and the prestigious "Trophee Du Stylographee 2007” award for Design & Artistic Creation.
Emotica stands for; emotion (E), movement (MO), titanium (TI) and caoutchouc (rubber) (CA).
The clip is unique as when snapped down on the pen, it appears as a normal pen clip. But when flipped up, it forms two legs to hold the pen at an angle to the desktop.
When trying the pen at the visit to OMAS, I found the material used to construct the pen to be soft and very comfortable to hold.
The Bologna line was designed to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of OMAS and comes in cotton resin, enamels and celluloid models. The celluloid Bologna is also in my Pens of Note group. I have the Bologna Burkina and it ranks up as one of my favorite pens. The Celluloid line uses a smooth piston-fill mechanism that holds an impressive 1.42 ml of ink.
This year the new Bologna collection has new colours as well the new releases all have the icon "O" on the cap of the pen.
In the resin line, OMAS has issued a new dark blue with bold orange tone pens. This new line has a very distinctive look. I was told that the colours represent the blues of the cool evenings in Bologna, and the warm oranges for the tones to represent the hues one would see in the evening when walking the many porticoes of Bologna.
Finally, the 360 line has also been redesigned. This pen features an elegant triangular section designed by the architect, Stefano Bini. The shape is classic yet modern. Part of the new design was to change the shape of the to of the pen so as to accommodate the icon "O".
I don't have a 360 in my collection, yet, however, in holding the pen I think this would be a line that would nicely join my other OMAS pens! Since the 360 has a distinctive shape, I would recommend trying the pen to see how it fits the hand.
The 360 line comes in resin, celluloid and titanium bodies. All with the incredibly smooth 18kt gold nibs
The 360 Mezzo comes with a cartridge filling system for the fountain pen, and an interchangeable ball point and roller ball - for the ball point/roller pen.
Marta also discussed some of the OMAS Limited Edition pens. OMAS creates about two Limited Edition pens a year.
One of this year's limited editions is the OMAS Château Lafite Rothschild, a joint venture between OMAS and Château Lafite Rothschild.
The pen is unique in that the material for the body is made from the oak that is used for the wine casks. The body itself has a slight oval shape which is also inspired by the shape of the wine casks. At the top of the pen, the red enamel is the same colour as the famous bordeaux wine.
The 18kt gold nib has a diamond stylus engraving of the Domaines Baron de Rothschild logo — their seal on the joint venture.
OMAS produced 1,000 fountain pens and 797 roller pens. 1797 is the vintage of the oldest bottles preserved in the Château Lafite Rothschild cellars.
It is interesting to find out the background the limited edition pens.
Another limited edition recently issued is the MARS (MARTE) — inspired by the planet Mars.
The rose-gold elicits subtle red tones of Mars.The pen has four rubies to indicate the four exploration landing points by the Soviet Union and the United States. The expected dates of future explorations are engraved on the nib holder. Keeping with the history and culture of OMAS, engraved on the rose-gold nib is a half-bust of a Greek god.
The Aleksandr Pushkin has drawings in subtle silver and gold to elicit the sense of complexity of the writers' stories. His name can be found twice on the pen. Once in the Cryillic alphabet and in signature form on the pen body.
This is a rare pen with only 26 fountain pens and 26 roller ball pens produced in 18 kt gold; and 1,000 fountain pens and 799 roller balls produced in sterling silver.
How does OMAS come up with the quantity to produce? Much is based on research and history.
For example, with the Pushkin, twenty-six is the date of Aleksandr's birthday, and 1799 is the year of his birth.
As Raffaele Rispo, Operations Manager, led the visit through the factory, he explained the various stages in the creation of an OMAS pen. It is basically a year from concept to production.
An OMAS pen starts with a concept - the idea which is first expressed by drawings and then advanced through the work up of a complete set of technical drawings.
The technical drawings outline the dimensions and specifications of the multiple of parts that go into the creation of a pen. OMAS uses 3D computer drafting software to allow extensive reviews of all components before production commences. The Tauromaquia pen was on the computer screen and by using the 3D software, the pen can be rotated and viewed from different perspectives. By looking at the pen in layers, the precision of fit of the various parts can be checked.
Once the plans are approved, a prototype is made. The protype is an important stage as the actual pen can demonstrate areas that require further review before production commences.
From there, the pen moves into production. Here the materials play an important part. There is a pre-series first produced. This is small number of pens that are used for quality tests.
OMAS is highly recognized as making some of the most beautiful celluloid pens available. Raffaele showed the rods of celluloid that are stored in a fire-proof room. The celluloid, treated with camphor, has already aged six months by the time it arrives at OMAS. The rods are about a meter in length. I was not expecting the celluloid rods to be flexible as they were. But process and baking changes that state. .
The celluloid rods go through two manufacturing stages, as well as two periods of baking. Each baking takes one month and the result is the remarkable celluloid pen body for which OMAS holds a high point of recognition.
I had previously read about the baking process to produce celluloid and was expecting an intense heat. Raffaele showed the two ovens and he explained that the temperature is carefully controlled at a moderate 37 C for each of the two one-month baking periods.
The control of this slow, steady temperature is part of the art of creating the celluloid for the pen body. As Raffaele explained, if there was to be a loss of the heat control, the entire quantity in the oven would be ruined.
As expected, the factory has modern computer-control equipment. It was interesting to see that OMAS respects the history by retaining some of the older equipment and placing it along the walls. As Raffaele explained, it is good to never forget from where you came.
(Top row, starting from the left: pens parts are carefully placed in machines for engraving; heat is used to seal the ebonite feed and nibs; nibs are checked on light tables with magnifying glasses for smoothness and fit. Polishing ensures the correctness of fit.
As I walked through the factory and discussed the various production stages it became evident as to the amount of precise handwork that is required to create an OMAS pen. The pens can not be mass produced or "pumped out by a machine". An OMAS pen is truly handcrafted.
The work to complete a pen takes time. The production cycle for a celluloid pen is over 100 days. It takes skilled workmanship. For example, training to use the cork polisher that finishes the celluloid pen takes two years.
Finally, finished pens are placed in stock. Orders are received via a wireless network and with each order, the individual pens are pulled from stock and packaged in the distinctive OMAS pen boxes along with supporting documentation.
Raffaele also showed the service centre where pens are returned to the factory for adjustment. As would be expected, fountain pens typically required the most attention, they are the most complex of the pens produced.
Each pen is looked at one by one, the parts examined, cleaned and adjusted. In some cases the pen may need to return to a specific stage of the production cycle. Raffaele has set aggressive standards for repairs to be completed.
It was a very interesting visit. At the conclusion I certainly knew more about the company, their redesign initiative and the production of the OMAS pen. While machinery is used for specific production processes, the OMAS pen remains:
HANDCRAFTED IN ITALY, SINCE 1925.
It was with great pride that I looked over my OMAS collection upon my return home. I appreciate each pen just a little more than I did.
I thank Marta Cruciani, Raffaele Rispo and Christophe Artaux for their time and attention for my visit. A memorable experience.
In the last Quarter of 2007, Xinyu Hengdeli Group, from Hong Kong, who is a strategic partner of LVMH, acquired 90$ equity in Omas.