Is there Anything New to Say About the Pilot Metropolitan?

Well, it may all have been said before, but not by me, so I’m going to say it anyway; and besides, what’s old news for some of us, can still be useful to others. The Pilot Metropolitan seems to have been around forever. Anyone who has ever commented on fountain pens, has had something to say about this pen. I’ve used them before, and I’ve never really liked them… but the last time I tried one, was the year they were first introduced, 2012. So I figured, it was time I gave it another shot.

I had the opportunity, when a friend in the UK asked me about inexpensive, full-sized fountain pens, that used bottled and cartridge ink. I also happened to be thinking about a couple of pens to load with ink I wouldn’t be using that often, and that had a reputation for not being that well behaved. I like the pens that I have, so my thoughts turned to picking up a couple of inexpensive, non-demonstrators, that I might pass on to my friend if I wasn’t that impressed.

There aren’t that many contenders in the sub-$25 (CAD) price bracket, and when you start making conditions like looking professional, as opposed to I snatched this out of my elementary school-kids’ pencil-case before I left this morning, then there are even fewer. I’m not keen on the appearance of the Faber-Castell School Fountain Pen (about $9.00 CAD; 2018-04-18), and the nib choice is very limited. Whilst the Platinum Preppy ($5.75 CAD; 2018-04-18) appeals even less, but does come in a huge variety of colors, with some pretty excellent nibs. They’re both good pens at this price point, but they just leave me cold aesthetically.

After a pretty positive experience with the Pilot 78G, I turned toward the Metropolitan and, possibly the Platinum Plaisir. I already have a few Plaisirs, and they are excellent, but just a fraction over the $25 limit I had set, so I thought I’d look at something different this time.

I picked up a Pilot Metropolitan with a steel 1.0mm stub nib through Wonder Pens in Toronto for $21.50 CAD. I was thinking that if I still didn’t like it, my friend could have it, but if I did, then I could always pick up a medium or something for him a bit later. This was my first surprise—I didn’t even know they did the Metropolitan in a stub, much less the  1.00mm; I was intrigued already.

After trying the stub, not only was my friend going to get his medium, but I was going to get one too. Although, for me, I thought I’d try one of the new—slightly funky—Retro Pop range. Only not too funky, I went for the Retro Pop in Grey. Let’s not get too adventurous.


The Metropolitan comes in a fairly basic, hinged box, made of a thin, pressed sheet metal and plastic screen. The pen sits in a foam cushion, and is supplied with both a Pilot cartridge and one of their squeezable converters. When you consider that the Platinum Plaisir, at about $5 more, does not include a converter, then I think this already represents excellent bang-per-buck.

After a brief flush through with tepid water, I inked the plain black 1.0mm steel stub with Noodler’s Bad Black Moccasin ink; the medium steel Retro Pop grey with Rohrer & Klingenr’s Solferino (Violet); and the other black Metropolitan with a medium steel nib, with Sailor’s Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) Black ink. Regular readers will notice something here—I have a bit of a thing with matching inks to pens, and this is only the second time I have loaded an ink into a pen that is absolutely nothing like the same color.

I am still waiting for the skies to fall, and the Earth to open up and swallow me whole. I’m beginning to think that I may be leaning into a mild behavioral disorder here, since every time I use this pen with the violet ink, I find myself going back to the Wonder Pens web site, and looking at the purple Retro Pop. It really is only a matter of time before I order it I’m certain.

The Metropolitan, in its plain and Retro Pop varieties, is a brass-barreled pen, cool and comfortable in the hand. The metal body gives it an air of quality, but It’s not too heavy for long writing sessions, and well-balanced posted and unposted. Although, when posted it didn’t feel particularly secure, fortunately I rarely post any pen.

There’s not much difference between the plain Metropolitan and the Retro Pop,. The Retro Pop comes in turquoise, purple, orange, green, grey, and red, with a jazzy patterned strip around the barrel just before the start of the section, whereas the plain black or gold has a  shiny plastic band in the same place.


The cap clips on and off securely, over a marked step from the barrel to the nib section. It is this step-down that has divided critics and fans of the Metropolitan over the years.

Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict, had this to say about it in his 2013 review:

While the praise for the Pilot Metropolitan is warranted, it is not without flaws. The biggest one for me is the sharp metal edge on the step-down from the barrel to the grip section. It hits both my thumb and forefinger when writing, making it uncomfortable right out the gate.
Brad Dowdy, June 10, 2013
Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen Review

The picture below shows just how abrupt that step is…

… and I commented on how this had put me off the Pilot Metropolitan in the past, saying, “I can’t write with the Pilot Metropolitan, that ridge between the barrel and the section irritates the living Hell out of me.” That was based on trying a Metropolitan back when they were a pretty new product, and I may well be mellowing in my dotage, but this time around I didn’t really notice that ridge at all. Maybe my grip has altered subtly, such that I miss the step completely, but it honestly just slipped right by me.

The only thing that irritated me this time, was the squeezy converter. Given the color of it, you just can’t see if you’ve managed to get a good fill or not; and it doesn’t hold much ink anyway. I think that I’ll be replacing that with a Pilot Con-40 converter (the old Con-50 has been discontinued), at my earliest opportunity.


The nib is an attractive Pilot-branded steel, with a little decorative etching around the breather hole and along both tines.

All three Pilot nibs were great performers from the moment they touched the paper. Both mediums, and the 1.0mm stub, were as smooth as I could wish for, and excellent writers. Both of the mediums were wetter, and slightly broader, than the medium on the Pilot 78G I had tried recently, but that was okay by me… it’s just an interesting observation that a disparity existed between nibs from the same manufacturer.

Details

The table below compares the Pilot 78G, Metropolitan, and the Platinum Plaisir. The Metropolitan and the Plaisir bear direct comparison I think, because they’re within a few dollars of each other, and I think are probably competing for a similar market. It’s also worth noting that real-world prices for both pens would jump by about $10 CAD when you add a good converter.

Manufacturer:

Pilot

Pilot

Platinum

Model:

78G

Metropolitan

Plaisir

Nib Material:

Steel

Steel

Steel

Approx’ Price ($ CAD; April 2018):

16.50

21.50

29.00

Material:

Plastic

Brass

Aluminium

Length Unposted (mm):

120.00

126.00

119.50

Length Capped (mm):

135.00

138.00

143.00

Diameter (mm):

11.50

13.00

12.20

Circumference (mm):

36.13

40.84

38.33

Length Posted (mm):

150.00

153.00

152.00

Weight (g):

13.00

26.00

19.00

Cartridge (ml):

1.10

1.10

1.50

Converter (ml):

1.30

1.30

0.98

Length Unposted (inches):

4.72

4.96

4.70

Length Capped (inches):

5.31

5.43

5.63

Diameter (inches):

0.45

0.51

0.48

Circumference (inches):

1.42

1.61

1.51

Length Posted (inches):

5.91

6.02

5.98

Weight (oz):

0.44

0.88

0.64

Cartridge (oz):

0.04

0.04

0.05

Converter (oz):

0.04

0.04

0.03

The Pilot Metropolitan earns points from me for being a bit longer and heavier than both the Plaisir and the 78G, but there’s something about the Plaisir’s nib that I have just loved on every one I’ve used. The Plaisir just has the edge in terms of writing experience, but the Metropolitan (some models), looks more elegant (even the jazzy grey).

But What Does it Write Like?

The plain black Metropolitan, with a steel 1.0mm stub nib was a smooth writer, and has worked almost faultlessly since it was unpacked. I say almost, because—of the three pens reviewed—it’s the only one that throws up the occasional skip or hard start. These seem to happen mostly when the pen has just been filled, and it’s negligible in terms of overall performance, but it still happens.

The writing samples were made on Clairefontaine Triomphe, 90gsm, lined, white paper. The 1.0mm stub was using Noodler’s Bad Black Moccasin ink. As you’d expect, the 1.0mm stub line was marginally finer than the more usual western 1.1mm stubs, which made a nice change that I’m going to enjoy becoming more familiar with as I use the pen.


The Pilot Metropolitan Retro Pop Grey, with a medium steel nib was the first of the medium nibs I inked up. Neither of these pens has shown any hard starts or skipping since they were first used.
The Retro Pop Grey was inked with Rohrer & Kilingner’s Solferino (Violet), and while there’s a flaw in my psyche that’s nagging at me to put this ink in a purple or violet pen, I can’t fault the existing partnership.

I love the color of this ink, but even with the slightly-finer-than-a-western-medium nib, it’s not very fast-drying. The nib however, performed beautifully, and was as smooth and well-fed as could be expected, no matter how fast I tried to scribble.


Lastly, the Metropolitan plain black, with a medium steel nib, was equally superb. No hard starts or skipping, and a clear, uninterrupted line of Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano black was scrawled across the page. This is a pen I will not hesitate to recommend to anybody looking for a great, economical, daily carry.

Summary

I may not have said anything new in this review, but what may be old news for some of us, can be useful for anyone thinking of buying for the first time, or conscious of their budget. For me, revisiting something I thought I knew, showed me how five or six years has altered my perspective, and I’ve become a Metropolitan fan.

Over the next few days, the medium-nibbed, black Metropolitan is going to be packaged up, along with a green Pilot 78G, and a few cartridges, and sent across the Atlantic as a gift to a very close and dear friend. He’s already been enjoying what was my Platinum 3776 with the 14K music nib for the last few months (he’s a professional musician and producer after all), and is looking for something a little less heavy on the ink. I’m also likely to pick up another Retro Pop, probably in purple for that Solferino ink. So what more of a recommendation could I possibly give? These are great value pens. If you haven’t got at least one Pilot Metropolitan in your collection already, I don’t think you’ll regret adding one; and if you tried one a while back and didn’t like it, give them a second chance. They may well surprise you as much as they did me.

19 thoughts on “Is there Anything New to Say About the Pilot Metropolitan?

  1. I agree, I agree! The Pilot Metropolitan is a marvellous pen. I can attest the Turquoise Metro Pop goes very (very) well with Diamine Marine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great review! I, too, have already tried the Pilot Metro in several colors, but that was a couple of years ago, and I haven’t tried the stub nib. I think I’ll have to spring for one. Hey – you oughtta get the purple one. You’ve got to have a proper pen for that gorgeous purple ink! Don’t feel weird, I match all my pens and inks, too. Go ahead and pull the trigger; you know you want it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great write-up. I have the purple Retro Pop, but I don’t have an ink that comes close in terms of colour match! I do like the nib and the way it writes, though. The MR/Metropolitan is a much more substantial pen and (other than the choice of colours) a bit more ‘grown up‘ than the Plaisir. I don’t find the step down from the barrel too annoying, but maybe that’s just the way I tend to grip pens.

    To add to the confusion, in the UK, the Metropolitan is called the MR and takes international standard cartridges/converters. Handily this gives Pilot an excuse not to include a converter with the pen. On the plus side, at least we don’t have to suffer the Con-series converters – I hate them!

    Price-wise it’s a lot more expensive than the Platinum Plaisir. The recommended price for the MR is £25-28 vs under £10 for the Plaisir. It can leave you with the impression that Pilot aren’t that bothered about the UK as a market, but hey ho… 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s weird about the price: substantially cheaper than the Platinum over here, substantially more expensive in the UK, and no converter. The phrase Rip-Off Britain springs to mind yet again.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You wrote: “this is only the second time I have loaded an ink into a pen that is absolutely nothing like the same color. … I am still waiting for the skies to fall”

    Still snickering a bit, and, yes, you might have a bit of crazy as far as this goes.

    I, too, feel MUCH, MUCH BETTER when my pen matches my ink, but your panic comes through in the writing. Consider CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)? 😉

    Even the idea of a “squeeze” converter makes my hands ache. I’m using cartridges so much more often than I used to, and fine motor/dexterity is why. Turning the little screw up thing to fill is possible some days, but not others. And this is a job that I *could* beg/nag my teen to help with, but, if he spilled ink everywhere, I’d get cross and that wouldn’t be fair.

    I use my Lamy pens more because the cartridges are bigger so I can be annoyed less frequently!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh yes, these are only the minor issues 😊

      I can see why you’d go for the cartridges; so would I. How would filling a barrel of a large, lightweight pen, with an eye-dropper work for you? Given the capacity (5 or 6 cartridges worth), do you think that would be worth the pain and effort?

      Like

      1. This is something I could consider, but, honestly, I’d end up paying my teen to do it for me, and probably setting him up over a spread out garbage bag (as a tarp) in the garage…

        Pain is one thing, but I know if I have any. The trickier bit is when I drop things unexpectedly. It’s like my hands just got *stupider*, too. 😡

        I don’t walk around with a fancy cup of tea for a guest anymore; I bought a little rolling cart so I can safely wheel it to her!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Indeed! I seem to recall from one of your previous posts on premium inks that Pilot’s prices were a bit out of kilter compared to other manufacturers – roughly parity for GB£ and CA$. For some reason, Pilot’s UK prices seem much higher in relative terms than other manufacturers like Sailor. I don’t think the range of options is as good here either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Check out their blog before you go! They’re going to be closing their doors at the end of April for a few days, and re-locating to two other locations in Toronto (yet to be revealed). I wouldn’t want you heading off down there, only to find the doors shut, and the shop deserted!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love my turquoise Pilot Metro! It was my first fountain pen and I still use it. Kobe #44 Marchais Blue is a good match for mine. The step down on the barrel does annoy me but I just adjust my grip. I still recommend the Metro as the best starter pen, because it’s cheaper than the Lamy Safari and TWSBI Eco in the United States.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am enjoying the Metro, and I know what you mean by being cheaper than the Eco… and to be honest, the chunky Eco is not to everybody’s taste. Overall, if I had to opt for my ideal starter pen, I’d still be looking at the Platinum Balance, or the TWSBI Diamond 580AL, but they are both very pricey for a starter pen. If only either one could be had for less than $50, or even $80 🙂

    Like

  7. I think you need to reassess the dimensions of the sections in your review. The Metropolitan’s has a very narrow diameter of 8.4mm whereas the Preppy/Plaisir’s is a more typical 10mm. For many people, including myself, the Metropolitan is an excellent pen whose section is simply too narrow to write comfortably for extended periods.

    Like

    1. I didn’t list the dimensions of the section, just the barrel at its widest point. I don’t think a competitive review of something as subjective as the pros and cons of a fountain pen is sensible either. What appeals to one person about the Plaisir, is another’s anathema, and the same can be said for the Metropolitan. Anybody reviewing either pen can only comment on what they personally like or dislike. In that vein, I don’t think I need to reassess anything, I think the Metropolitan and the Plaisir are both great pens. If I’m asked for a personal preference, it would be the Metropolitan. For me, Platinum starts winning at the level of the Balance–now there is a great starter pen, if a little pricey.

      Like

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