So, what would you pay for a simple, reliable, not unattractive, and above all usable 14K nib fountain pen? But wait, there's more as they say on the late night TV ads... It's a Pelikan!
The answer is "not much". With a list price of $108 Euros, it looks as though this slightly upmarket version of the Epoch is going to be very attractively priced, considering what you get for your money. The original Epoch was introduced last year as a simple everyday pen, a step above the "student pens" like the Pelikano. Viewed as a "user pen", the Epoch more than measured up. Snap on cap, rugged aluminum cap and barrel, with a clean, modern look. The steel nib was, (it's a Pelikan after all!) very smooth.
So why add a new model to the Epoch line? Well, it may be that the lure of solid gold was too strong to resist... More likely it's just that the original model proved popular enough to warrant a "top of the line" version with a gold nib. The looks are different enough to make it likely that a person happy with the Epoch might not want to move to the more traditionally styled M400. In that case, a gold nib Epoch makes sense from a marketing standpoint.
To begin with the important bits, no there really doesn't seem to be any noticeable difference in terms of the writing. After all, this is a very rigid nib design, in either steel or gold. No flex here!
It would appear that the gold nib is just that: a gold nib. If all you worry about is how well it writes, you can choose freely between the two models without worry. The nib on the new Epoch is very smooth, and lives up to it's description of "medium". Maybe I've been reviewing to many Japanese pens of late, but it's nice to get a medium nib that's on the wider side, instead of the fine side! Of course, I tend to prefer a heavier, wetter line. If you like a thin or dryer line you might want to go for the fine nib.
According to the information I've been given, this version of the Epoch is being offered in Europe with a full range of nib sizes. From fine through OBB. Whether or not this full range of nibs will make it across the Atlantic remains to be seen.
The Epoch gets the ink to that gold nib via a cartridge filler mechanism that is a bit quirky. Instead of unscrewing the section like most cartridge pens, the Epoch opens at the bottom of the barrel.
When you remove the barrel end, you find a slender tray that accepts the long cartridge, holding it firmly in place. Screwing the barrel end back on fits the cartridge into the section and pierces the cartridge end. Not really functionally any different from the "normal" way of doing it, but it adds some cool factor to the Epoch.
Once you've gotten a cartridge loaded up and you're ready to write, you'll find the Epoch a nice little pen. I say little as it's just at 5 inches long closed, and only another 3/4 of an inch longer when posted. You can expect this pen to fit into almost any pocket! The aluminum construction also makes the Epoch a lightweight among all metal pens. It's not much heavier than an equivalent sized plastic pen.
The fact that there's no seam between the section and the barrel makes for a comfortable grip on the pen. The front portion of the barrel flares out to form a rest for the fingers, but you can grip the Epoch at any point along the front portion of the barrel, depending upon where it feels most comfortable to you. Unlike on the original Epoch, the barrel of the Zircon is a bright finish, with horizontal rings inscribed along the length.
The Epoch Zircon is definitely an interesting pen in terms of design. The looks and functionality of the Epoch design make it a standout among pens of this price range. However, the real difference between this and the less expensive original Epoch is really just the barrel design. (Unless they import the full nib range!) The gold nib doesn't really write at all differently than the steel nib version. In either version, the Epoch is a great pen, and further proof that it's not necessary to spend an arm and a leg to get a good writing experience!
copyright 2005 William Riepl