Since 1912, Montegrappa has been manufacturing writing implements in the same historic building on the bank of the River Brenta. The river winds through one of the most picturesque areas in the prosperous North-Eastern part of Italy, through the historic town of Bassano del Grappa. Its Italian heritage is an important component of the company’s persona: that it is the first Italian pen manufacturer. “Italian-ness” is at the heart of Montegrappa tradition. It guides the company’s philosophy.
Founded as a “Manifattura pennini d’oro e penne stilografiche” (“Manufacturer of gold nibs and fountain pens”) during a turbulent period in Italy’s history, Montegrappa was a by-product of the region’s social history. The transition from the 19th to the 20th Century was greeted with changes in working conditions, with moves from the agrarian to the urban. Montegrappa – originally known as ELMO – benefitted from a pool of local talents, a workforce able to produce finely crafted objects, with style, with panache and with a drive to achieve excellence.
Almost immediately after its birth, the Bassano factory found itself in a key position during the First World War. Its location was fortuitous, for Bassano was a key military position, and it would be marked by key battles toward the end of the conflict. Among the many soldiers who used ELMO pens to write letters home were two celebrated American writers, then acting as war correspondents. Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos were both volunteer ambulance drivers at the front. The eloquent and evocative communiqués they sent from the front were recorded with the finely produced writing equipment manufactured in Bassano.
In the 1930s, the company blossomed, enjoying a golden era now appreciated for the elegance of the manufactured goods of the day, from wristwatches to cufflinks, fine automobiles to tabletop radios. With use of the fountain pen having replaced dipping pens, the products of the house of Bassano met the taste of the public with sober yet graceful designs, enhanced and personalised through the variety of their colours and materials.
Montegrappa was among the first to use celluloid and galalith, elevating it to the material of choice for superior pens. The company’s skilled craftsmen were able to perfect the manufacturing process with original and precise technical solutions, which served as the platforms for the artistry of the pens’ designers. Through the ensuing decades, Montegrappa would produce numerous models, now highly collectible.
Montegrappa pens have played their part in history, for signing documents during key moments in the 20th Century. Famed Italian leaders including Victor Emmanuel III and Benito Mussolini used Montegrappa pens. Amongst the Russian leaders of the last part of the century, Boris Yeltsin gave his Dragon pen to Vladimir Putin on 2nd January 2000, and with this pen he symbolically handed over his power to him. Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev signs all official documents with the Montegrappa Extra 1930.
Consolidating its position as the premier manufacturer of luxury pens, Montegrappa has produced a continuing flow of limited editions, commemorating events, locales and individuals. Amongst the subjects embodied in Montegrappa writing instruments have been the America’s Cup, the scintillating town of St Moritz, La Fenice Opera House in Venice, Formula One Legend Ayrton Senna and many more. More recently, Montegrappa has established a series of pens that will yield elegant, portable tributes to the highpoints of its first century, the “Icons” models honouring cultural giants Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee.
Highly desirable pens such as the coveted Dragon have in turn attracted and inspired notable collectors. In 2010, France’s President, Nicolas Sarkozy, join the distinguished gathering of heads-of-state, popes, royalty, actors, musicians, artists, sportsmen, top models, writers and celebrities who have been proud owners of Montegrappa pens during its first century. To name a few, his fellow Montegrappa users include Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi, His Holiness John Paul II, His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain, His Majesty King Hussein of Jordan, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, His Majesty Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, Antonio Banderas, Al Pacino, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Michael Schumacher, Jean Todt, Stirling Moss, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Naomi Campbell, Paulo Coelho and countless others.
Notable amongst the friends of Montegrappa are the great racing driver Jean Alesi and actor, writer and director Sylvester Stallone. So deep is their affection for the brand that both are now shareholders and board members.
Montegrappa was acquired by the Richemont Group, one of the great world leaders in the field of luxury goods, in November 2000. During the period that followed, 2001-2005, the brand operated initially under the aegis of Cartier, eventually being controlled by Montblanc.
This brief foray was marked by a period of consolidation, culminating in a fortuitous event: In June 2009, the Aquila family reacquired Montegrappa, effectively – to paraphrase Bob Dylan – “bringing it all back home.”