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March 19, 2012 - Posted by Shu to Pen Pals Interviews
Did you know that Kaweco, which stood for Koch, Weber, Compagnie, closed down in 1980? Thanks to a company called H&M Gutberlet Gmbh, the brand Kaweco was revived in mid 1990s. I had the privilege and joy of interviewing the CEO and the son of the original founder of H&M Gutberlet, Mr. Michael Gutberlet, on the past, present, and future of Kaweco.
Why did your company decide to bring back the Kaweco brand of pens in 1996/1997?
We (my father Horst, my brother, and I) had collected old writing instruments since 1982. Later on, I took over all of the collections. The most striking thing about our collections was the disproportionate amount of Kaweco products, especially Kaweco Sport pens. Since the original Kaweco company disappeared in 1980, we decided to revive the Kaweco Sport brand.
How do you design products for the modern consumer while ensuring that over 125 years of Kaweco history is preserved?
It is vital for Kaweco to develop products that are infused with the DNA of its predecessor. This was the repeated wish and request of our retailers. For every new product, I examine our historical collection and derive the idea for the design from it. In regards to technology and choice of material, we are always trying to achieve the highest quality with the help of internationally renowned manufacturers. Through this process, we guarantee the modern consumer a comfortable instrument with flawless function and outstanding, appealing design.
Which Kaweco pen do you use for everyday writing?
My personal favorite is the DIA 2 fountain pen. I use this fountain pen daily, because I hand-write all of my correspondence in sepia-brown ink. For quick notes, I use my DIA 2 pencil (0.7 mm) and ballpoint pen. In my pant pockets, I switch between a Kaweco Sport pen set and a Kaweco Liliput pen set.
Among the Kaweco Sport models produced over the last 100 years, which is the all-time bestseller?
It is very hard to estimate which Kaweco Sport is the all-time bestseller, partly because of the change in manufacturing techniques. In the old days, each pen part was manufactured with solid material. Later, the technology for injection moulding was developed, and manufacturers could make bigger quantities in a shorter time at more favorable prices. This technique is still popular today. Since 1994, the Classic Sport model has been number one in terms of number of pieces sold, and the AL Sport model has been number one in terms of net profit.
Do you ever plan to make / source gold nibs for the Kaweco Sport line of pens?
Soon, we'll be offering solid gold medium nibs for customers to upgrade their Kaweco fountain pens with. However, these solid gold nibs are not meant for the Classic and Ice Sport models, because we believe that they're neither aesthetically nor functionally appropriate for either line.
When can we expect Kaweco to produce converters for the Kaweco Sport line of fountain pens?
It has always been my wish to offer a converter for Kaweco Sport fountain pens. However, as of today, I haven't found a workable technical solution. Let me explain some details: One ink cartridge contains 1 gram of ink, but a converter for the Sport would contain 0.6 grams of ink. Additionally, the tooling costs would be very high. I feel that the best solution would be to eventually develop and produce a Sport pen with piston mechanism.
Pen Type-A is one of the most successful design projects by total dollars on Kickstarter. The project reached its funding goal of $2500 within the first 12 hours and by the time the 30-day backing window had closed, the Pen Type-A had brought in over $280,000 in pledges.
This beautiful pen was designed by Che-Wei Wang and Taylor Levy, who make up the team behind CW&T. Their design approach is to "... create lasting designs while questioning conventional thinking. In our quest to fulfill our goals, we favor minimal aesthetics, intuitive interfaces and over-engineered construction."
This design ethos was brought to life with the Pen Type-A. Che-Wei and Taylor were kind enough to answer a few questions from the JetPens team about the project, which you can read below.
How did you first discover the Hi-Tec-C pen? Why is this pen special for you as a designer?
We’ve been using Hi-Tec-Cs for many years. I can’t remember how we started, but once we had one we fell in love. Sketches, doodles, words, it makes everything look better.
What was your design vision behind Pen Type-A?
Pen Type-A began as an homage to our favorite writing utensil, the Hi-Tec-C. We use these pens all the time and one day thought ... “Wouldn’t it be awesome if this thing [ the pen ] was made out of stainless steel?”
We wanted the design to be simple and straightforward. Something with a little weight, to give momentum to your stroke. No fancy grip to tell your fingers where to go. No grooves to snap into a cap. No visible branding on the surface of the pen. A pen is a personal, intimate object. It shouldn’t have someone else’s name on it. It belongs to you!
How long did it take you to make the first prototype?
We sketched the pen in about a day, and then our first 2 prototypes came in the mail a couple of weeks later. We used them all the time around studio, but didn’t really think of this as a Kickstarter project until a friend suggested it.
Why did you name the pen "Type-A"?
We tend to name most of our projects exactly what they are. Often we end up with names that are so boring and obvious that they end up being funny. Pen Type-A is not so funny though, unless you pronounce it Pen “Taipei”. That is kind of funny, but completely unintentional. We like the name because it is neutral and gives off the feeling that the pen is more of a machine, or an instrument.
The sleeve of the Pen Type-A fits perfectly over the pen body, how much space is there between the sleeve and the body?
The space is crazy small with super tiny tolerances. It is no simple feat to machine stainless steel with such high precision. Our fabricators hate us for it! But since we wanted a pen that was free of grooves or notches, we designed a sleeve with the pneumatic effect as its cap.
Our first surprise was discovering such a tight-knit, passionate community of pen lovers. We had no idea you guys were out there. Especially surrounding the Hi-Tec-C.
Can we expect a Pen "Type-B" or other stationery-related project from CW&T in the future?
Yes! We are really excited for Pen Type-B. We have been set since the beginning on making a version that was less of a desk pen and more of a pocket pen. But right now our #1 priority is fulfilling our Kickstarter orders for the Type-A. Once we have 4,048 happy scribbling people, there will be more to come!
Any parting words for your fans at JetPens?
Thank you! From day one you were enthusiastic and supportive of this project and helped give it legs. We are forever grateful. JetPens is awesome!