By Bill Riepl
The OMAS 360 has been around a while now, and since it's introduction has been one of the most distinctive fountain pen designs around. The bold triangular shape tends to leave people either loving or hating this pen, but one thing is for sure, OMAS definitely didn't play it safe design-wise. They went all out!
The 360 was recently introduced in three colors of celluloid, and the reaction was predictable. OMAS celluloid is wonderful, among the best in use today. The price tag reflects this of course, and the celluloid 360 has a list price of $950, putting it squarely in the category of "nice, but..." pens for most of us. But if you can find a good deal on one, and like the shape and size, these pens will certainly get you noticed in a crowd!
The newest color to join the celluloid 360 is called Burkina, and it's a clear departure from anything I've seen used before. It's a mixture of what I would call a bronze-green marble, with a pattern of black lines running along the length of the cap and barrel. It's difficult to describe, it might almost be called a "snakeskin" pattern. It's one of the most striking materials I've seen used in a modern pen, and while it does take some getting used to, I'm finding it quite attractive in person.
This version of the 360 is fitted with silver color trim, and a metal covered section to match. The original prototype of the 360 in this material had a section in matching celluloid, as the other celluloid 360s do, I am not sure why OMAS has changed the design. It's not bad at all, unless you have an active dislike for a smooth metal section. On the other hand, the material is great, and the more the better, as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't have minded a section in matching celluloid material.
The silver color trim is also of a new design on this model, with a much thinner capband. It gives the 360 a different look, cleaner and maybe a bit more in line with the striking celluloid used here. The silver color is OK, but I would have liked to have seen gold colored trim offered, it might have set off the bronze-green color of the celluloid a bit better. In addition to the metal section and cap band, there is a thin ring between the end of the barrel and the piston knob.
The clip is the same slender swooping design as used on the earlier 360 versions. It's one of the all time great clip designs, by the way. It slips easily onto almost any pocket, and yet it's tight enough to grip securely. Plus, it looks great, and fits well with the overall design of the 360.
The 360 is a piston fill pen, and like all OMAS piston fill pens, the movement felt a bit stiff at first. The action was very smooth though, and the piston works fine. It's just requires more effort turning than a Pelikan or Montblanc. I've heard it theorized that this is due to the celluloid construction, but I don't know how accurate that is. I do know I've had many OMAS celluloid pens over the years, and while all have had somewhat stiff piston action, they have all worked perfectly. It's just been something I've gotten used to and I've come to expect it from an OMAS.
Nibs are normally available in fine, medium, and broad sizes, with additional sizes available as exchange from OMAS in extra fine through double broad oblique sizes. The medium nib on this sample is very nice, if a bit on the ordinary side when it comes to line width. After all, with a pen that looks this bold, you sort of expect a nice, flashy extra bold line!
Or it might just be my taste for a broad line surfacing. As with all of the other OMAS pens I've tried, this one looks to have an ebonite feed, which might contribute to the reliability in terms of ink flow.
In use, the Burkina 360 is much like any 360. It's large, in fact, you could go so far as to say huge pen. Six inches long closed, seven if you post it. If you're writing without posting it's still 5 1/4 inches long. That's big! On the other hand, it's at the same time a very lightweight pen. Another trait it shares with other OMAS pens, especially the celluloid models. The Burkina 360 weighs in at only an once and a half. What weight there is feels very low in the hand thanks to the metal section. In fact, the weight is so low that I really can't feel any difference between posting the cap or not in use.
The other primary point that arises when using the Burkina 360, or any 360 for that matter is the triangular shape of the section. Depending upon how you grip the pen, this can be one of the most comfortable pens made, or almost unusable. The nib and feed are unfortunately set in the section, if they were set into a rotating collar a la Parker 75, you could simply adjust the angle to suit. As it is, the 360 is very much a "try before you buy" pen. I've had one that just didn't fit until I removed nib and feed and reseated them, which turned out to be a no-no due to the sealant that OMAS uses on the feed. I've also had two that were literally perfect for my hand, and those two are among the most comfortable pens to write with, with the shape of the section feeling very natural, my fingers falling neatly into place.
With a list price of just barely under $1,000 the Burkina 360 is probably going to remain a fairly exclusive pen. If you can get past the price tag however, you will find a great pen waiting for you!
copyright 2005 William Riepl