You May Not Know This Brand, But You Should!
Last week when I was on my lunch break, I overheard Pen Boutique owner Leena and our customer service guru, Joy, discussing the shipment of Otto Hutt Design 06 pens we had just received. Design 06 is a new line for us, so I stuck my head out of the break room and excitedly suggested that I feature it on this week's blog. I love Otto Hutt pens, but it's a brand that's not very well known in the US, and a lot people in the pen community have never even heard of it. Actually, the fact that most American pen enthusiasts are unaware of Otto Hutt is part of why I love the brand so much. I love being a little different, so its relative obscurity really appeals to me. Today I'd like to share with you why Otto Hutt should be on your radar, and why Design 06 would be a great way to enter the world of Otto Hutt.
I discovered Otto Hutt in 2019 when I came across an article about one of the Design 04 pens and fell in love. I could hardly find any reviews of it or references to it in the online pen forums, but the reviews that I did see talked about the incredible craftsmanship of this brand, which was founded in Pforzheim, Germany in 1920 and has maintained its Bauhaus aesthetic and jewelry-makers' precision.
What is Bauhaus?
I love the Bauhaus style, so I was very intrigued to discover that there is a pen brand that reflects this aesthetic. Bauhaus was a German art school that mostly operated in the 1920s but had a profound influence on modern architecture and design, including buildings, fine art, furniture, industrial design, graphic design, and fonts. It was founded by German architect Walter Gropius in 1919 and was famous for its attempt to unify crafts, fine arts, and technology. The Bauhaus school envisioned a harmony between form and function, and featured design elements like simple geometric shapes such as rectangles and circles. Bauhaus designs tend to feature rounded corners and rectangular protruding features. Other famous people who taught at the Bauhaus include architects Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and artists Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and László Moholy-Nagy.
You can definitely see the Bauhaus influence in Otto Hutt's pen designs! Compare the Bauhaus logo (left) and the Otto Hutt logo featured on some of their nibs and end caps, and you can see right away the deep connection this brand has maintained to their roots in the Bauhaus movement.
The rounded corners, angular clips, streamlined minimalist shapes of the pen bodies, and geometric shapes used in the designs of the pens are all beautifully Bauhaus.
The Golden City at the Rim of the Black Forest
Karl Hutt, the company's founder, translated the idea of the innovative Bauhaus style to new products including smoker’s accessories, toothpicks, and shaving sets in metal. Soon, Hutt was making fine writing instruments made of silver. He handed over management to his son Otto in the 1960s and they continued with this aesthetic. Pforzheim, the town that the company is based in, is a gateway to the famous Black Forest, and has been known as "Goldstadt" ("Golden City") since the 1700s because of its international reputation for manufacturing jewelry, watches, and useful household objects made from gold and silver. Even to this day, about 80% of the jewelry exported from Germany comes from Pforzheim. The combination of Bauhaus influence, meticulous craftsmanship, and a jeweler's eye for fine detail is very evident when you examine an Otto Hutt pen, and I still remember how intrigued I was when I first read about the brand's history and looked at photos of its lineup.
The Otto Hutt Difference
Back in 2019, I decided I wanted the Floral Creme Design 04 fountain pen for Christmas, but I couldn't find any US pen stores that carried it, so I ordered it from a place in Sweden and waited patiently for it to arrive. When I opened it that Christmas, I immediately started using it to draw and discovered that the precise feel of the nib and the perfect balance in my hand were ideal for sketching. (The people in my silly picture were supposed to be a couple of my relatives, but only loosely!)
I was blown away by the construction of the pen, with its mirror-like sterling silver cap and unique mechanical spring clip, which is handcrafted from solid brass and coated with a highly polished platinum layer, then checked by hand several times to ensure quality. Everything about the pen felt solid, sturdy, and perfect in its precision and functionality. Every time I used the pen, I enjoyed its unique look and exceptional quality. I wondered why Otto Hutt wasn't more popular, but appreciated the fact that my pen was little known, which made it feel more special.
Otto Hutt is a bit easier to get in the United States now, but there still aren't that many pen stores that carry it, and I was thrilled when I started working at Pen Boutique this fall and saw our Otto Hutt display case. We currently carry five of their lines--Design 04, Design C, Design 07, Design 08, and Design 06, as well as their complete lineup of inks. They all reflect a Bauhaus influence, masterful use of fine metal including gold, platinum, and silver, and small design elements that hallmark their attention to detail.
Each pen has a unique six-digit code engraved on the cap and noted in the warranty card, and the fountain pens feature the beautiful and incredibly smooth Otto Hutt nib, which comes in steel or 18 karat gold. When I bought my pen, I decided on the steel nib after reading reviews about how it was anything but your typical hard steel nib and was in fact difficult to distinguish from a typical gold nib. This is true--the striking bi-color plated Otto Hutt steel nib has a bouncy gold nib feel and even offers a little line width variation. It's extremely smooth and quite wet, but also feels precise and has a little bit of "tooth." The feel is different than any of my other pens, and I really like it!
Steel Nib vs. Gold Nib
For this review, I decided to compare my familiar Otto Hutt steel nib with the 18k gold nib on one of the Design 04 pens in the store.
Here's a picture I took in the store of the two Otto Hutt nib choices side by side. The 18k one is on the right. I brought home the medium gold nib in the photo and compared it to the medium steel nib I own, using a Diamine Majestic Blue ink cartridge in both.
The two nibs are both extremely nice. There is a difference, but I'd say it's more of a preference for feel than of quality.
Here are two quick Walter Gropius-inspired drawings I did, one with each pen. The gold nib made me draw a little more messy because it was softer and wetter, so my hand felt freer. The steel nib was also very wet, as you can see from the sheen and slight smearing from my hand, but my drawing was a little more controlled and the light lines of the hair were thinner. I enjoyed the experience of both! (All writing samples in this post are on Tomoe River paper.)
Design 06 - Form and Function
Okay, so I love Otto Hutt. But what about Design 06, the pen that inspired me to jump on this blog topic? Along with the gold nib to try out, I also bought home one pen in each Design 06 color that we carry--Ash Grey, Ruby Red, Arctic Blue, and Seashell Pink, and chose a mix of two fountain pens, a rollerball, and a ballpoint. Although I had been admiring our other Otto Hutt pens for several months, this model was entirely new for me and I really wanted to play around with it and get to know it.
First of all, the colors! They are quite different from the other Otto Hutt pen colors, but very nice. I love them all and really can't pick a favorite. They all have a sophisticated and slightly industrial feel that I love... even the pink looks cool and astute. I especially like how the metal trim thoughtfully complements each color. The icy Arctic Blue pen's trim is silvery platinum plated, the Ruby Red is a warm gold plate, the Ash Grey's trim is a steely grey PVD, and the soft Seashell Pink has rose gold plating. I kind of want them all!
The sandblasted style texture feels very satisfying in the hand and is a pleasure to hold. It's milled with special diamond tools. I love the way it plays with the light, and how easy it is to get a grip on. Form follows function! The body and cap of the pen are made from solid aluminum, finished with a lacquer coat, so the pen is lighter weight than it looks, and strong. The pens are a nice weight for me--neither light nor overly heavy. They are much heavier than a resin or cellulose pen, but feel well balanced to me both posted and unposted; however, I have a smaller hand and I prefer the unposted weight.
The shapes are a little more curvy and organic than other rectilinear Otto Hutt pens, but they are extremely androgynous in character, especially when capped. They look very modern, almost futuristic.
Design 06 - How Do They Write?
So, how do the Design 06 pens write? Well... beautifully, of course. I was not surprised, but, at the same time, I was surprised by aspects of each one.
First I tried the rollerball, and was astonished by how wet and smooth it was. It looked like I was writing with a fountain pen, minus the shading and line variation. I'd had no idea what color ink the pen would have, and it was crazy how closely it matched the color I had chosen to test the fountain pens, further emphasizing the fountain pen ink illusion.
Next: the handsome grey ballpoint. Writing with this pen felt comparitively more ordinary, but it was very smooth, too--not sticky feeling like a lot of ballpoints. I also liked the feel of gripping the slightly rough finish. The ballpoint is the only one of the three where you hold the textured part of the pen rather than a smooth metal grip. When I looked more closely at the writing, I was surprised by the line variation in what I had written. Very unusual for a ballpoint pen! Look at the tails on those ys and gs. (Pardon my messy handwriting--I wanted the writing samples to be natural and spontaneous.)
The two fountain pens were pure pleasure to use, of course. Again, both the steel and 18k gold nibs are available for the fountain pens, and I had one of each. I used Otto Hutt brand Ocean Blue ink to dip test both.
Well, I guess what I wrote with the gold nib pen pretty much says it all. I LOVE these pens. I haven't met an Otto Hutt I don't like. I could probably write another ten pages about Otto Hutt, but I need to go to bed, so I'll leave it at that. The motto on the signage in our Otto Hutt display case at the store says, "By individualists. For individualists. With style." I love that. I like to think of myself as an individualist with style. How about you?