That photo is what the Vibrant Orange looks like in the sun. Helping to explain why my first reaction was, “This pen is insane!” (Jon, that is a compliment.)
No question that Pelikan got the name right for Vibrant Orange. It is vibrant. It’s a bright orange material made swirly and bubbly for extra effect. It’s fiery and strong. It reminds me of this. Also, marmalade. And the weather at the DC Pen Show in August.
The best word that comes to my mind to describe the material is “extra.” It’s so extra. Dan Smith the Nibsmith (my pusher man) quoted This is Spinal Tap to say the Vibrant Orange “goes to 11.” Which it totally does — at least, after you’ve had it for a few weeks. At first, I think it goes to 15.
Here are some Pelikan M600-size pens, most pretty conservative and business-like. White Transparent, Pink, Ruby Red, Vibrant Orange, Green o’Green, Berlin, Stockholm, Marine Blue, Piccadilly Circus. Of the three that stick out, the Vibrant Orange sticks out the most. I love that.
Here are a few specifics about the Vibrant Orange.
The Material. It’s not a customary “chips of different colored plastics” material. It’s Pelikan’s less common molten acrylic material. Pens like that include Pelikan’s M620 Cities pens Athens and Shanghai, Pelikan’s M600 Vibrant Green and Pelikan’s M805 Ocean Swirl.
Closeup photos should show the Vibrant Orange material pretty well, but basically there are two variations in the treatment of the orange: one which looks darker and more swirled, like the first photo on this page, and another that looks lighter, more bubbly and molten, like the second photo on this page.
There are two bands of each, as you go around the pen, but that isn’t really obvious, even if you are looking for it. The transitions between the two treatments of orange are pretty subtle. I didn’t even notice the transitions at first, not until Joshua from Pelikan’s Perch mentioned it on his blog. And now that I notice it, I like it, at least on the Vibrant Orange, because the slightly darker parts tone down the brighter parts without you even noticing. If the pen had been all brighter and molten, it might have been too much.
Does it look like the M805 Ocean Swirl? Not to me. Yes, the Ocean Swirl pen uses a similar molten treatment, with the same alternate banding thing, but the effect is completely different.
The Ocean Swirl uses dark colors, and the contrast between its bands is very evident: as you twirl the Ocean Swirl pen body you see very distinct darker stripes interspersed with more aqua, molten areas. And that’s the first thing you see. In fact, with the Ocean Swirl, I can’t see anything else. With the Vibrant Orange, I only see the different bands if I look hard — it’s a single color, and therefore much more of a piece.
Cap Transparency. Pelikan caps are thinner than the pen body, and Vibrant Orange is a lighter material, so the cap is so translucent it’s almost transparent. So when the Vibrant Orange pen is capped, you can see the black section underneath through the cap.
A few people have told me they don’t like that, or find it jarring. And I get that. But I think it’s something you probably only notice, if you do, when the pen is brand new. A few of the Cities pens are like that, too, including the Shanghai, and no one mentions it any more. In fact the Shanghai is one of the more expensive Cities pens on the secondary market.
I always love the look of a cap like this, because when you take the cap off to start writing with it, the cap glows. And I’m not looking at the pen unless I’m writing with it anyway. To me it’s the most attractive part of the pen.
Ink Barrel Translucency. The pen body is thicker than the cap, so it’s not as see-through, but the orange material still makes the barrel more translucent than you’d expect. I always put Waterman Serenity Blue in every new pen, and the translucency of the Vibrant Orange means I can see the outline of darker ink through the barrel. Depending on which part of the material you are looking at, you can also sometimes also see the darker area that is the piston.
If you can see ink in there, you can immediately see how much ink you have left, and as someone who writes with my pens, I find that more a feature than a bug. If you hate it, but want the pen anyway, you can use lighter colored inks. Again, though, I think this is another thing most people will get used to; other Pelikans are like this, too.
Will your cap match up with the pen body? Not exactly. The Vibrant Orange is a pen where the cap and body are very distinct, and then you’ve got the variations in the material.
For me, the Vibrant Orange is so bright and zingy that I don’t notice any difference between cap and barrel unless I’m looking for it. Which I never do. And, even if I did, I wouldn’t care.
But if you really like these areas to match up between cap and barrel, you can do it reasonably well. Just use the old trick of aligning the clip with the nib in a specific way. For example, experimenting on mine, if I hold the pen body out in front of me, with the nib facing up, I can align the bands on the cap and body better if I hold my cap with the clip at 3 o’clock (or to the right) before screwing on the cap. Mine also aligns pretty well with the clip at 9 o’clock (to the left). But if I hold the cap with the clip facing straight up or straight down, the cap’s swirly areas instead line up with the pen body’s molten areas.
What do you mean by “the pen is so extra?” I mean it’s a little more showy than most pens. The material is more exciting and has a lot of variation. It’s visually more interesting than the average.
This is the capped pen, sitting in a pen drawer, clip up.
I’m going to rotate it 90 degrees.
Now another 90 degrees, so it is clip-down.
Now another 90 degrees.
Another thing that’s extra is the color. It’s a warm and cheery yellow-orange, bright and vibrant, but not too much. It’s not eye-searing, but it pops.
To see that, let’s put the Vibrant Orange in the tray one more time with other Pelikans, except this time with fewer, so we can see them a little more closely.
And that is, of course, the Vibrant Orange’s darker side — the molten side is even brighter. The Vibrant Orange is a zinger.
A lot of people wonder how it compares to the original Aurora Optima Sole, which is a good question. I can’t photograph those two together, because I sold my Sole earlier this year, but you can see photos of my Aurora Sole here and here. Also, Dan Smith put up a video on his Nibsmith Instagram of the Vibrant Orange with different Auroras that use the same material as the Optima Sole.
Both are beautiful, and both are excellent, well-made pens. The Sole orange is quieter and more subdued, and with a more traditional type of acrylic. The Vibrant Orange is, indeed, more vibrant and also more wild. The Sole is elegant, like a waltz. The Vibrant Orange is more like disco.
Both also, unfortunately, are premium-priced: the new Pelikan with fine to broad nib costs $395 in the US, about the same price as a used Sole Optima or 88. A newer Optima Sole with a black cap sells for around $525 new and is still available.
The Vibrant Orange also, somehow, reminds me of my Kanilea Hanauma Bay.
Kanilea uses materials they design in collaboration with Jonathon Brooks, and which he makes, and the Hanauma Bay has a mixture of these resins that are sometimes sparkly, sometimes swirly, and sometimes transparent, that reminds me of the Vibrant Orange material. Also, there is a lot of orange in there. It’s the excitement of the material, as well as the bright, warm colors, that is the link for me. The Kanilea is also a premium pen, about the same price as the Pelikan in the US but with a steel nib.
I think they are all pretty special.