A question I’ve seen pop up time and time again is
what came first, the chicken or the egg? “what’s better, the Pilot Custom 74 or a Platinum #3776?” Which of course has a subjective answer to it, because to me it might be the #3776 (spoiler – it is); to you it might be the 74 and to someone else – neither. They want a ballpoint. Some things can be analysed objectively (for example, the Platinum is smaller than the Pilot), but my feelings about this are not. I might prefer a smaller pen while you prefer a larger one (truth is, I don’t have much of a preference, so long as it’s not so small I have to post it – Conway Stewart 550 excluded).
Below I will compare various features of the two pens which I hope will give you the necessary understanding of what the two pens offer for you. But first, a word on the pens individually:
I have three of these beauties, and soon I plan on getting the regular Nice with the rose gold trim as well. The three I have are the Chatres Blue, Nice Lilas & Nice Lavande. The latter two (pronounced N-ee-se, as in the French city) run at a premium of about £50, as they are “special edition” (I don’t know what Platinum actually calls them, but as far as I know they’re either not limited editions, or if they are they’re selling poorly as many places still have even the first Nice that came out). The Nice editions don’t offer much over and above the regular editions besides design – the performance certainly is absolutely the same with the same cartridge converter fill and a gold nib. The trims are rose gold and the cap/barrel are sandblasted to give a fairly unique texture, as well as well as cut outs; some say that these are too sharp but honestly I don’t feel the same – certainly they’re not an inconvenience. The Platinum has a patented(?) cap which means the nib won’t dry out for 2 years. That being said, you’ll never be at a point where you won’t use this pen for 2 years…!
Pilot Custom 74
I can’t remember when I got this pen, but I remember it being one of my eBay finds at a very good price. I only have one Custom 74, I would say because the others have silver furniture (or those I have found besides the black or green body), which I’m not a fan of. The pen comes in various colour options ranging from the black solid body to models that are more in line with demonstrators with a blue, purple, orange and even a clear option. The black and green are the only ones that aren’t a demonstrator model, as far as I am aware. The filling system is the Pilot Con-70 which is probably my favourite converter – it is large and useful, albeit difficult to clean the first time round.
So. Onto the comparisons. I have never done this sort of review before, but what I plan on doing is going over general parts of the pens (such as “nib” or “design” for example) as I do with my other pen reviews but at the beginning of each ‘part’ I will include an individual look at the two pens and then go onto comparing them. As I said this is my first comparison look, if anyone has any other requests as to do it – I would love to hear!
Platinum #3776: 14k gold nib. Depending on the model you buy, it will come with either a rhodium plated or a gold coloured nib, but the material will always be gold. The aesthetic is fairly simple on these nibs with a sort of double “M” motif, which could represent mountains I suppose? The name 3776 comes from the height of Mount Fuji in Japan, though I don’t know if I’m searching for meaning with this design. The breather hole is heart shaped which is very similar to what you’d see in vintage pens.
Pilot Custom 74: 14k gold nib. This pen is fitted with Pilot’s #5 nib, which is different from a typical #5 nib you may be used to from manufacturers such as Bock or JoWo. This is actually a rather dainty nib, but rather streamlined and as this is a thinner pen, fits it well. The nib has nice scroll work on it – the typical Pilot gold nib, really.
The three #3776s and the Custom 74 I have are fine nibs, but the 74 is a “soft fine”, so naturally it has a bit more line variation. I’ll compare line variation using a Pilot #15 fine nib from a Custom 823 as well as the 74, which can be found below.
To get right into it, the Platinum #3776 is both finer and provides more feedback than the Pilot. Naturally I prefer this nib, as someone who enjoys a degree of feedback and I love finer nibs. I have used larger nib grades from the #3776 and they are definitely smoother – though you could always take some micromesh to the fine nib to smooth it out at your own risk (it’s not a difficult job – if I can do it then anyone can). The 74 is a hairline thicker than the #3776, I wouldn’t say there’s much in it but just enough to be noticeable. Of course, if this isn’t enough for you – you could go for a Platinum EF or even a UEF nib: Ultra Extra Fine. These nibs do take a certain amount of, uh, getting used to. I do quite like them.
Both nibs have an aesthetic that’s fairly “simple”. Nothing too over the top or whatever, but I do think the heart shape on the Platinum is a tad gimmicky. It might be a throwback to the vintage era of pens where a heart shape is seen in most pens. But. Ehhh. Anyway, I got over it and bought two more of the same pen so clearly it’s not that much of a bother?
In terms of line variation, the #3776 is very rigid. You can squeeze some out, but it’s not really enough to make a flourish in your handwriting. Platinum do offer a soft fine nib, however. Unsurprisingly the 74 soft fine offers a fair amount of line variation, though this absolutely is not marketed as a flex nib – it does give you the opportunity to add something extra to your handwriting, however. The regular fine nib from the 823 offers more line variation than the 3776.
Both nibs are very well tuned, and I can attest to quality control of specifically the Platinum #3776 nibs, perhaps also to Pilot nibs in general as I have six of them (whoops). Even though both nibs are fine, you still have a wet writing experience. However, the #3776 is, as mentioned above, provides more feedback. Very pencil like.
Here are some comparisons for general writing, wetness and reverse writing. Though, note that in the case of reverse writing with the Platinum, there’s essentially no change in line width’ usually the line gets finer when the nib is reversed. It does write rather well, however. But it would be useless to write this way (for example, margin annotations) unless it’s something you do in normal writing.
Platinum #3776: The #3776 comes in a choice of colours – there are more designs to this than the Custom 74, no question about it. A lot of these may be hard to find and can be quite expensive (the Koi design and a few to do with different woods come to mind). However, even with the standard line and the Nice models you have quite a lot to choose from.
The bodies are translucent, all besides the black model which is a typical cigar shaped pen. At first I was a bit wary on how I’d get along with a C/C demonstrator as initially I thought the idea was horrible. It grew on me. Some models are more translucent than others – the black is opaque, the Bourgogne Red is less translucent than the Nice models but more so than the Chatres Blue.
The bodies are smooth and nice to hold – with the Nice models you have a sandblasted finish which gives a matte feel to them and some cut outs. People sometimes complain about the cutouts being sharp but I really don’t think this is the case one bit. The section is smooth on the Nice models as well, so you’re not holding onto the pen on the sandblasted areas anyway. If this is a concern of yours – I’d suggest worrying less about it because it’s really not an issue for me and I struggle to see why it would be.
The pens come in gold or silver trim depending on your model, but there’s no variety like with Pelikan where you can have a blue pen in either the M800 (gold) or M805 (silver) trim: there’s one option, but the furniture changes. The gold on the Nice models is rose gold.
Custom 74: A range of colour options, but certainly not more to offer than the #3776. Of all the pens, the only models to come with gold furniture is the black trim and the green trim; they are also the only two non-demonstrator models. Other barrels I have seen are orange, blue and clear – very similar to TWSBI’s offerings of the 540, actually.. Besides the green and black, of course.
It’s a fairly thin pen, but by no means ultra thin (like the Elysee pens).
Characteristic ‘ball clip’ on the cap. See this on most upmarket Pilot pens, notably besides the Capless/Vanishing Point.
I’m a fan of both these pens, but there’s a clear winner for me in the design department, and that’s the #3776. That can be seen in the fact that I collect them. I don’t collect the 74s: one is enough for me. Though, what’s good about both these pens is that you’re able to choose between an “executive” design (the black) or a more fun and less formal design (demonstrator models).
The #3776 is fatter but smaller compared to the thinner and larger 74. From an aesthetic point of view (I will get onto the functionality in the next heading), I do think the 74 looks more streamlined and more professional.
The Custom 74 is certainly more transparent than the #3776 (unless you’re comparing the clear versions) which could be troublesome if you’re not a fan of C/C demonstrators, as I was to begin with. If you want something a bit more hidden then I’d look at the #3776 – particularly the regular models and not the Nice. Conversely, if you’re not a fan of the matte finish then go for the 74. But these pens are so great that I don’t think you should limit yourself over small details like this because it’ll soon grow on you, I’m sure.
Platinum #3776 – These pens are great to hold. They are lightweight, on the smaller side and don’t take up too much room. This will, of course, be a difficulty if you dislike these things. The pen can be posted (if you have larger hands, you may need to do this. I get along just fine, however) though I’d be slightly worried about damaging the design. It’s fairly typical in diameter at the section, if not ever so slightly smaller.
Custom 74 – A rather large pen, however the slimness of this makes it distinct from other cigar shaped pens and makes it slightly unique (and also perhaps appear slightly longer than what it really is). Fits well in the hand; no need to post. Rather lightweight.
The two pens differ quite a lot in this respect and what sets the two pens apart as they’ve been fairly similar (perhaps with the exception of converter capacity). The Custom 74 is what you want if you dislike small pens and/or prefer thinner grips. In terms of size, the two sit either side of “average” (behave); with the 74 representing the larger demographic while the #3776 is on the smaller size. Though, in terms of girth the #3776 is closer to average and (somewhat ironically) the 74 falls short. I’d imagine this could be the deciding factor for many.
Platinum #3776 – Proprietary cartridge/converter pen. Converters are available in gold or with silver. Unsurprisingly, I own the gold ones. Though, the Nice Lilas and Lavande both (for some reason that is beyond me) ship with the silver. Even though the accents are noticeably rose gold.. Grumble, grumble.
Custom 74 – Proprietary Pilot cartridge/converter. Pilot offer a number of different converter sizes and mechanisms. I find the Con-20 to be the worst and most stupid converter that is offered by any brand. The Con-70, in contrast, I believe to be the best on the market. So guess what I have in my Custom 74. Yep – the large capacity Con-70. It’s rather quick to clean, as well. Just requires a bit of dismantling. I don’t believe it to be advertised to be dismantled – so do so at your own risk.
Both filling systems are proprietary. While the barrels on both pens are all one piece (i.e. won’t let liquid leak through a hole or anything), these pens aren’t advisable to turn into eyedroppers as the threads are metal.
The inherent advantage that the Pilot has over the Platinum is that you have a number of choices in terms of converter mechanisms. Though, it just makes sense in my opinion to take advantage of the Con-70. You get a much larger fill as well, which makes this pen a potential workhorse.
I am going to be intentionally useless on this issue, I’m sorry. Point being, there are so many different places and countries (and I appreciate my readership isn’t limited to the Britain or America) that you can order from – including from Japan itself on Amazon (in the so called grey market – though please be aware often the pens will come without warranty). Further to this, there are also different models, particularly of the Platinum, with different nibs etc. that all vary cost. However, as a general rule of thumb, you’d expect to pay less for the #3776 than the Custom 74. By ~£75 (when considering the cheapest black and gold version of the #3776. It’s closer to £20 if you are considering the Nice lines).
Would I buy it?
Well. Yes. I have. Both of them. In fact, I have bought the #3776 multiple times. So, yes.
I suppose this is the part where I say which one I prefer. Which is difficult. However, I know that there is a winner for me and I will have to say the #3776. Even when putting the collectability aspect aside. This is mainly due to the nib. I love the nibs. Not to mention it gives me the option to have a blue pen with gold trim as well as a pink pen with (rose) gold trim. Hits the spot for me.
So I hope I have helped answer the age old question of whether the egg or the chicken came fir.. Wait, that’s next week.