Just as the owner of a luxury watch knows that a timepiece is not just about telling time, the fans of fine writing instruments know there is more to a pen than simply conveying a message. The utilitarian act of typing words into a computer and hitting “print” cannot match the beauty of writing by hand using a finely crafted writing instrument that is a work of art in itself.
Connoisseurs of the writing instruments made by Montegrappa, known for its limited editions, understand this distinction. Those connoisseurs include Nicolas Sarkozy, King Juan Carlos of Spain, Antonio Banderas, Al Pacino and Michael Schumacher. Ernest Hemingway used a Montegrappa, as did Benito Mussolini, and Boris Yeltsin famously gave his Montegrappa Dragon pen to Vladimir Puton in 2000 when he handed over power to the new Russian leader. The brand’s most dedicated celebrity fan, however, is Sylvester Stallone, an official ambassador for the brand. There are many types of celebrity endorsements of luxury products. Some are based on multi-million dollar contracts that stipulate the celebrity must wear and be photographed wearing or using the product, but in rare cases, a brand ambassador is more than a beacon. He is also a dedicated fan, a longtime customer and even a product designer for the brand he supports. This is the case with Stallone, whose authentic relationship with Montegrappa extends to his investment in the company and a position on the board of directors.
As Italy’s largest manufacturer of luxury writing instruments, Montegrappa was founded in 1912 and has remained a family owned operation for most of that time. It is located on the banks of the Brenta River in the picturesque northern Italian town of Bassano del Grappa. The brand, says CEO Guiseppe Aquila, “embodies the mix of Italian style, design expertise and clarity of purpose that keeps other Italian houses such as Missoni and Armani self-determining and free to continue the traditions that allowed them create and maintain their positions as marques of note.”
In 2000, the Richemont Group acquired Montegrappa from the Aquila family, which had owned the company for several decades, acquiring it in the 1970s from the Marzotto family, partners of the founder, Austrian entrepreneur Edwige Hoffman. “Montegrappa was producing pens for my family under various private labels for many years,” says CEO Guiseppe Aquila. “We bought the company from the Marzotto family.” In 2009, Richemont, having decided to focus on its watch brands – including Cartier, Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre – sold the company back to the Aquila family, at which point Stallone became a minority shareholder. “Sylvester Stallone symbolizes our brand DNA – Italian heritage, global recognition, strength of spirit, deep intelligence and an underlying sense of artistry,” says Aquila.
Ironically, Montegrappa is now moving into the watch business, the purview of its former owner, Richemont. Just as pens are divided into two categories (regular lines and limited editions), the same goes with the watches. There are the regular watches (NeroUno, Parola and soon Fortuna) and the limited editions, of which the Chaos watch is the first example. Chaos was designed by Stallone, as was the writing instrument of the same name, which Montegrappa describes as its first “heavy-metal” pen. The iconography is inspired by images of chaos in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. The watch features a bold skull-and-serpent motif, made of silver or gold, mounted on a black PVD- coated steel case, and includes a small, engraved skull on the winding crown. Some editions are enameled.
Montegrappa is known for its many limited edition writing instruments, one of the most recent examples of which is the Salvador Dalí. It is the third installment of the Genio Creativo (Creative Genius) series – the first two limited editions honored Antonio Stradivari and the other, Amedeo Modigliani. The pen was inspired by a number of Dalí’s paintings that contain depictions of elephants, in some cases with legs stretched to unreal lengths. On the Dalí pen, the elephant embraces a barrel of Mediterranean blue celluloid for the silver edition, or malachite green for the gold version. When the pen is opened, a quote from the autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, is inscribed on the sterling silver inner barrel.
Montegrappa has even created a limited edition pen that recognizes the positive impact of writing on the brain. The pen is designed to look like the neurons in the brain and pays tribute to the scientific fact that writing is an important exercise for the brain. The design was a collaboration with famed American neurosurgeon Richard Restak, the author of more than 20 books on the brain. Included with each pen is a book, penned by Dr. Restak written especially for Montegrappa by Dr. Restak. The limited edition Brain Pen collection from Montegrappa is issued in numbers that hold special “brainy” associations: the 1,012 silver fountain pens represent the precise number of neurons in the human brain; 900 silver roller ball pens represent the number of neurotransmitter molecules released by a single synaptic vesicle in the brain. Just what does the act of writing do for the brain? It engages the memory, the motor skills and keeps your brain sharp as you get older. Certainly the average luxury brand cannot claim this as one of its owner benefits.
For information please contact Kenro Industries, the North American distributor for Montegrappa at 800-741-0005, 516-741-0011 or visit their website www.KenroIndustries.com.
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