Sometimes you run across a product that makes you wonder why it took you so long to discover it. The Rotring 600 mechanical pencil, what I'd consider another classic of modern industrial design on par with the Lamy 2000, is the latest. For around $30, it's an excellent buy if you're looking for a high quality mechanical/drafting pencil to add to your kit.
I've had a hard time finding a good mechanical pencil that makes me want to use it every day. When I was in school, I used them pretty frequently (especially in classrooms that didn't have decent pencil sharpeners), and they are always handy when you want to make really, really small notes. They attract a lot of snark in this community from both fountain pen users ("It's not a pen!") and pencil enthusiasts ("It's not woodcase!"), but mechanical pencils are useful tools that have their place.
The design of the Rotring 600 is, well, Rotring-esque. Rotring basically defined the modern drafting pencil with hefty metal construction, a knurled grip, and a mechanism at the end of the pencil that you can turn to reflect the hardness of the lead you are using. The pencil itself is slender, and while heavy, is well-balanced for medium-length writing sessions. (Mechanical pencils in general, and especially this type of drafting pencil, aren't intended for novel writing, but rather sketching, calculations, and jotting notes.) I've been using my pencil with the Rotring stock HB lead, which is pretty nice, though my typical preference is 2B Ain Stein lead.
The Rotring 600 fountain pens are becoming increasingly difficult to find, and in some cases can go for as much as $250-300 in eBay auctions. At $29 from PenChalet, the Rotring 600 mechanical pencil is an economical way to scratch that itch, but beware, the fountain pen starts to look pretty good after a while....
Take note: the 600 model is not a "retractable pipe" drafting pencil, in which you can depress the nock or another button on the pencil and retract/extend the metal sleeve that holds the lead. If you're looking for that feature in a Rotring pen, you will need to opt for the Rotring RapidPro (slightly more expensive at $35), or the Rotring 800 (nearly twice as expensive at $60). There's also a Rotring 800+ model that comes with a stylus tip, but I'm not sure that justifies increasing the price even further to $72.
If you don't feel like spending $30 on a mechanical pencil, but like the "blackout" looks and the knurled grip of the Rotring, the Uni Kuru Toga Roulette is probably my second favorite all purpose mechanical pencil ($9 shipped via Amazon Prime). The Kuru Toga Roulette is round, lighter, and has a slightly larger diameter than the Rotring, so if you use your mechanical pencil for long writing sessions this may be the option for you.
DISCLAIMER: I was provided the product by PenChalet at no charge, for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links, through which I may be compensated a small amount if you purchase a pen from any of the sites linked to in this article. While I'd greatly appreciate it if you use these links to purchase a pen you are interested in, you are, of course, under no obligation to do so. Many thanks!