Handwriting is still a unifying force a handful of artisans, steeped in craftsmanship, creativity and luxury in the French. In this universe where the pen gives way to the instrument of writing, the arts and crafts occupy a place of choice in the heart of the collectors.
By Olivier Muller
Take a little eggshell – from quail only. Add a touch of tapioca, egg white… and gold leaf. The recipe for an elixir of youth? Rather, the recipe for a lacquer of Provence ! Behind this astonishing formula lies the composition of one of the last artisanal lacquers of France. It is by Frédéric Faggionato, designer of his own instruments of writing, in its manufacture of Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume (Var). At this day, the man prepares his exam to become Meilleur Ouvrier de France, in the category of artisanal lacquers.
There are few talents today of this magnitude in the field of the exceptional pen. They share some common points: an immoderate taste for luxury, for good taste; a not very well known, except for a few experienced collectors; unlimited creativity. The handwriting, heckled by the seizure electronic, is still an art that a few rare enthusiasts maintain with an ardent flame. Laure Ridel represents most of them. In her Parisian shop, Point Plume, she is currently the fourth largest generation to hold this high place of the passion of the pen. Here, only the exception is allowed. His clients are monarchs and heads of state, sovereigns or high-level collectors, as discreet as they are sharp. ” The pen is a legacy. We We are Latins, it is part of our culture, our way of life. The back to writing is a necessity, otherwise, without knowing how to articulate nor to write our thoughts, it is the language that we will lose “, pleads the director of the sign.
However, today, the market for the high-end writing is mainly carried by two houses: Montblanc and S.T. Dupont. Their commercial and marketing strength lies in a market that would otherwise decline. Why? Because the time is not for ostentatious luxury: ” in times of crisis, showing off a 5000 euro pen is not a good idea. It is an accessory that cannot be hidden. When it comes to is used, it can be seen immediately, unlike a prestige watch that is can choose to leave hidden under his shirt “, explains Laure Ridel.
These two leading brands in the market of writing have therefore developed consumer ranges which, for all that, are do not deny anything of their DNA. At Montblanc, it is the famous “Meisterstück”, literally “masterpiece”. Created in 1906, this nib became established with a design finalized in the 60s, with its body in resin, lacquer or steel, its four main sizes (149, LeGrand, Classical and Mozart) and its golden feather systematically finished with the available in eight different sizes.
The story of S.T. Dupont is different: at the beginning (1872), the brand only manufactured trunks. With the development of modern aviation, the use of the trunk disappears, it We need new objects of identity, of luxury, easier to to carry: it will be the lighters. It was Jacky Kennedy who, in 1973, in love with her S.T. lighter. Dupont, will ask for a pen to be designed for her associated feather. This is how the French house came to write, without never leave its historic factory in Faverges (Haute-Savoie). Its market France remains the key country, followed by South Korea, a nation historically very attached to S.T. Dupont. The house is distinguished today by the assumed volume of its writing instruments which, all, display a generous weight.
These two competing houses are are also joined by their ability to produce exceptional series limited, even unique pieces. ” Our custom orders represent 8% of our business by value, slips S.T. Dupont. Goldsmithing, plating, polishing, guilloche, are some of the some of the craftsmanship that the company deploys on its exceptional instruments. Montblanc is doing the same with highly anticipated annual limited series of collectors: Writers, Patrons, Muse, Great personalities.
Facing these houses, the artisans independent companies live in a paradox: without Montblanc or S.T. Dupont, the luxury writing market is collapsing. However, all of them entrust their difficulties to live in their shadow. Despite this, some people are beginning to to display an unquestionable recognition. This is the case of Olivier Williame, creator of De Saint Esteve, from the name of the street in his village of Roquefort-les-Pins (Alpes-Maritimes). Its niche: hard stone. Sodalite, Howlite and Tiger’s Eye are his favorite materials. ” I bring them from Brazil, refine them myself until I create a body of about 60 grams,” explains the craftsman, who can manufacture two to three pieces per day. His colleague Hervé Obligi will not do better. Appointed Master of Art by the Minister of Culture in 2015, independent for 33 years, this mineral touchstone serious and carves the stone for the most famous houses of the Place Vendome, without the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the Château de Versailles, the Louvre or the Quai d’Orsay. Lapidary sculptor, he makes his own instruments to a few rare annual units that make the secret happiness of knowledgeable collectors.
Emmanuel Aube will sometimes take several months for a single piece. The man engraves entire stories on silver, bronze, bone, marlin rostrum or mammoth ivory fossilized. A work of goldsmith whose certain creations are sold with five figures. Based in Versailles, Emmanuel Aube is, like his colleagues, the modern messenger of the High Scripture.