Sometimes there are pens that look good for the sake of looking good and not offering much functionality. The Montegrappa Chaos is a somewhat obscene (chaotic, if you will) example of this. The Russian manufacturer (of whom I have reviewed once before) BENU manages to remain functional but also with emphasis on the artistic value of the pen. I’ll just jump right into the review because I think it’s wrong to keep you waiting about the details.
There are perhaps a few aspects of this pen that I want to cover in respects to design. The first is the aesthetic you are initially presented with. This is a clipless pen and I’m glad it is. The pen doesn’t roll away as the body is faceted, which is something that I have admired about pens before. The Friendly Chameleon is sort of crystal shaped, but the colour and chatoyance of the body makes it look almost crystal-like as well. Pictures just cannot capture the sheer beauty of this pen. But it doesn’t stop there.
Perhaps one of the things you’re wondering is why is it called the Friendly Chameleon? Well, the body is iridescent (as is the case with all the models in the Chameleon range) – so you get the effect of the pen barrel changing from a beautiful blue to a very striking purple. BENU haven’t as of yet mastered the ability for the pen to change colour to exactly match one’s surroundings, though I feel that may be a bit impractical so should be placed on the back burner for now. Not only are the colours beautiful, but the gradients and chatoyance used are spectacular. This design isn’t the only one offered in the Chameleon range, so I recommend checking out other designs on their website to see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy (there’s a red/pink one for example!). Look at the two pictures below to see the change in colours.
Slightly offset to the middle is a black band that is also faceted and has the BENU logo on it. This is actually the cap band. The cap is extremely long; it is almost half the size of the pen. That doesn’t mean you get a small pen when uncapping – the cap just covers a lot of the section as there is a big step down, which I shall get onto later. Because the cap is so large and there’s no clip (though not a complaint), it took a long time to remember which side to unscrew from, as I often found myself unscrewing the pen upside down. It’s quite easy to remember, as I have found slight indents on the barrel of the pen (below) which acts as a reminder. These indents are to securely post the pen, though I don’t think there is much need for this because it’s already a comfortable size uncapped. Though, it’s nice to have the option I suppose.
The step down is rather large on this pen from the barrel to the section. Thankfully this doesn’t occur near where you hold the pen, so it is still comfortable to hold while writing. This aesthetic did originally put me off, as was the case with the Briolette pen, which isn’t nearly as pronounced as this pen. It grows on you, though, and it isn’t a hindrance in terms of functionality either so there’s not much to complain about.
BENU use standard Schmidt nibs in their pens. It would be nice to one day see a nib with their own design, whether these nibs remain as Schmidt or even Bock/JoWo or manufactured themselves. But as BENU are still breaking into the fountain pen world, I can hold off in anticipation for these nibs. They are standard #5 nibs which means you can interchange them for others (which means you can have a gold nib at an extra cost to yourself, you will also have to source these yourself as you cannot as of yet buy gold nibs from BENU). The Friendly Chameleon comes with a silver stainless steel nib. I would love to see a gold plated nib on this instead, as is with the Arabian Nights Briolette pen. For an additional $15 (close to £10) you can have a spare nib, which I think is a very good price. Though (and I’m not certain) I think it would be the nib only and not an additional feed or housing.
The nib on this pen writes rather wet, but not to the point where it’s unusable (like some vintage noodles..!) and the nib gives a very pleasant writing experience. I notice a hint of feedback – which is something I love, but others may struggle with. I really don’t think it’s anything substantial though (and you can easily remedy it), especially when considering feedback from other nibs such as the #3776 fine from Platinum. Reverse writing is possible, but I really wouldn’t recommend it because while the nib doesn’t dry out or anything, it does get extremely scratchy. This pen also isn’t advertised as having flex by any stretch of the imagination, but you can squeeze some out – at your own risk of course. It does begin to railroad quickly, however. But again, this isn’t advertised as a flex nib and so it would be foolish to expect otherwise, really.
Standard international converter. As with the nibs, the converter provided (for $5) is a Schmidt converter – which I find to be extremely reliable (as do other brands such as Montegrappa). It would be nice to see the converter included, but given the number of these things I have lying around, it does feel nice to possibly save some cash (however much) by using one I already have. So that’s a nice option. Though, I was reading a book about nudges and biases when making decisions and I think it would be a better idea if BENU were to market it as “-$5” if you were to choose not to get the converter and include the converter in the price. Anyway, term is finished and I’m not returning for another 2-3 months, so enough economics!!!
This pen feels great in the hand. As mentioned above, I was worried about how it would feel with the step down after uncapping the pen, but it actually sits nicely, feels comfortable (as you don’t feel the step down) and is nicely balanced. I’d also say that it’s a very nice size; certainly no need to post it, but you have the option to if you so wish.
This comes in at a very modest $90 – I was actually very shocked when I saw this price because I actually anticipated it to be a bit more expensive than that. Of course, if you want the converter then you’re looking at $95 (still reasonable) and/or if you want an extra nib unit then that puts the price up to $105 without the converter and $110 with. This gives a price in the ballpark of £75.
Would I buy it?
It would be really hard to say no. Letting go of this pen will be very difficult and it may accidentally get lost in the post.. Cough..
I kid, of course. But this is a phenomenal pen and I wish I could keep hold of it for longer.
If not this, then what?
This is a difficult one. For the price, there are a number of options – such as various TWSBI models, or if you’re willing to spend a bit more you could possibly look into a #3776, depending on where you look and the model you’re after. However, if you’re looking for something that has the same/similar beautiful design aesthetic then it’s really hard to beat BENU at this price range, so I recommend looking at their other pens.
Disclaimer: This pen was sent to be from BENU in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own.