Hermes Nautilus pen

Known more for its exquisite scarves and legendary bags, French luxury giant Hermes has left no stone unturned in creating its new range of Nautilus pens, part of its Writing Objects collection that also features notebooks, writing paper and leather accessories. The aluminum and stainless steel pen with a retractable rhodium-plated white gold nib has been designed by the famous Australian designer Marc Newson, known among other things for his Lockheed Lounge chair, Qantas Business Class beds, Ford 021 C concept car and Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos 561 and 566 clocks. As for Hermes, in the words of Artistic Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas, “ This fountain pen marks the birth of a new family of Hermès objects. A new ‘clan’, in which the Nautilus is also available as a ballpoint pen and is complemented by note-books, various writing papers and envelopes, as well as leather accessories for transporting these writing materials. I particularly like a cartridge case that looks like a leather-clad matchbox, and our specially developed ink colours like Hermès red and blood orange. All of a sudden a cartridge box becomes something you want to have on your desk.”

In a conversation reproduced below, Dumas and Newson discuss their first meeting and what went into designing the pens:

Marc Newson: I remember when we first met. It was in February 2009…

Pierre-Alexis Dumas:  When the project to create a new pen came up, I immediately thought of you to design it. When I told you about the pen, the first thing you took out of your pocket was a Capless from Japanese company Pilot. You didn’t know at the time, but that was the only pen my father used

MN: A significant coincidence

P-A D: My father, Jean-Louis Dumas, was fascinated by Japan. He travelled there often. Having that pen on him the whole time was like living with a fragment of Japanese culture… He often said, “If Hermès made a pen, it would have a retractable nib”

A pen from three men

P-AD: You started designing. We chatted, discussed ideas. Then, in 2010, we met with Pilot in Japan

MN: They were amazed we’d gone to see them. In almost a century they’d never had a request like that, a technical challenge like that

P-AD: What did you find the most difficult aspect of designing this pen

MN: Designing this pen was no simpler or more complicated that conceiving the inside of an aeroplane. The main constraint was having to fit a complex rotating mechanism into a very small space

P-AD: Which explains why it needed so much development time

MN: It was a long process, punctuated with trials, tests and prototypes

Lost and found

MN: All of this pen’s subtlety derives from the way it works. At first glance, it looks anachronistic. There’s nothing technological about its appearance. It looks easy to use, obvious, instinctual. But it’s hiding a mechanism that’s part genius, part magic!

P-AD: Every time you twist it to get the nib out there’s a moment of wonder, of enchantment, like a child’s game. And you get exactly the same feeling when you close it: just one little movement and the nib retracts, it disappears… as if by magic, you’re right

MN: A mechanism that’s given rise to a whole new gesture. This is neither the logic of a screw-on lid nor a press button system. You just twist it, turning the body of the pen, which opens and closes neatly and very gently

P-AD: When you close it, your hand can feel the mechanism releasing the energy accumulated when you opened it

Identifying feature

P-AD: At Hermès we give objects names, it’s a tradition. When we called this pen Nautilus, ­ we were making a reference to the French writer Jules Verne who fuelled the dreams of generations of readers. You know, my uncle Olivier Dumas chaired the Jules Verne society – which brings together some three hundred enthusiasts – for about fourty years. But I also liked the idea of Verne’s imaginary world because it has inspired a good many designers…

MN: Starting with me!

P-AD: What do you like about his books?

MN: I’ve always been inspired by science­ fiction. This pen wears its name well. It’s a reference to Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, but also to a type of seashell called a nautilus. Its simple, clean lines make it mysterious looking, nothing about it suggests that it’s a pen: it has no lid, no ring, no clip

Nomadic and timeless

P-AD: Hermès is freedom and elegance in movement. With the Nautilus we’re pursuing this notion of travel, of getting away, and also of an object that is perfectly suited to everyday use

MN: And it really will stand the test of time. It’s timeless in terms of its restrained shape but also in the choice of materials used, materials made to last. The body of the pen is in solid aluminium and stainless steel

Necessary accessories

P-AD: This fountain pen marks the birth of a new family of Hermès objects. A new “clan”, in which the Nautilus is also available as a ballpoint pen and is complemented by notebooks, various writing papers and envelopes, as well as leather accessories for transporting these writing materials. I particularly like a cartridge case that looks like a leather-clad matchbox, and our specially developed ink colours like Hermès red and blood orange. All of a sudden a cartridge box becomes something you want to have on your desk

MN: A family of objects that creates a landscape…

P- AD: …and allows you to capture your emotions, impressions and ideas on the spur of the moment