The big news of the past week (at least in the pen community) has been the wild success of Wancher's “Dream Pen,” a Kickstarter project that launched last Thursday. Wancher is a Japanese pen company that has been around for some time, but the Dream Pen is their first high-profile product release. So far, the Kickstarter has been successful by any measure, raising more than $215,000 from 550+ backers in less than a week, with 29 days still to go.
The goal of the Dream Pen is to make the Japanese urushi and maki-e artistry available “without the luxury markups.” In other words, Wancher is taking aim at a lower-cost market segment disregarded by the likes of Platinum and Nakaya, whose urushi pens start around $700 and move very quickly into the thousands for the more intricate and complex designs. While the Dream Pen is certainly not inexpensive, Wancher’s pricing ($350 Kickstarter / $450 retail) is more in line with what you would pay for a custom Edison or Newton pen with similar specs.
Since this was a relatively expensive loaner prototype, I was careful in terms of how hard I used this pen and where I took it, but I did have the opportunity to "test drive" the Dream Pen. So far, I’m impressed. I found the pen extremely comfortable, lightweight and well-balanced, though like almost all urushi pens it can only be used unposted.
The nib on this particular prototype is one of the better JoWo nibs I’ve used, and I suspect that it’s due to the ebonite feed. Nibs fitted to ebonite feeds tend to be wet writers, so while I loved this broad nib, I’ll likely opt for a fine or medium nib on my final Kickstarter reward.
So should you back the Wancher Dream Pen? It’s a lot of money, so here are the pros and cons, from my perspective:
- The price point, especially at the Kickstarter price. Well-executed urushi pens with gold nibs and ebonite fees can easily run $700-plus, so if you’ve been considering a similar pen from Platinum or Nakaya, the Wancher should be on your radar.
- The Dream Pen features a JoWo nib and non-proprietary cartridge/converter compatibility. I’ve seen some comments to the effect that a JoWo nib is a drawback, in that it’s “boring” and there isn’t any detailing like on Nakaya's gorgeous nibs. Fair enough. But the drawback to Nakaya nibs is (1) the price, and (2) that you're locked into the proprietary Platinum converter, which I don’t necessarily like, and the proprietary Platinum cartridges.
- The construction and the build on the Dream Pen are high-quality. The spring-loaded cap was a surprise, and creates a very secure closure. I could not locate a single flaw in the Urushi finish. The pen feels great in the hand and is very well-balanced.
- Price. Regardless of how this pen compares to other urushi offerings, $350-450 is a LOT of money to spend on a pen - especially a Kickstarter project where you won't have the reward in your hands until late summer, early fall (assuming no delays in production).
- Non-lacquered threads. In an effort to keep costs down - which is completely understandable - the Dream pen features non-lacquered ebonite threads. I personally like the contrast, but some may think that they make the pen look unfinished.
- JoWo nib. See above. Some people don’t like how they look or write, but as I've said before, it's unrealistic to expect smaller companies to offer a house-made nib and still keep pricing reasonable.
- As of now, the Dream Pen does not give you the option of adding a clip, and, like most urushi pens, the Dream Pen does not post.
I ended up deciding to back this pen, and I really hope that there is a yellow urushi option at some point. I’ve been going back and forth on a Nakaya Portable Writer in Nanohana-Iro (yellow) for the past couple years, but I’ve had trouble justifying the $700+ price tag for the pen that I want. I owned a standard black Portable Writer a few years ago, and while I enjoyed the pen, I ended up selling it mainly because it hadn’t spoken to me in the way it would have needed to in order to justify keeping that much money invested. I’m more comfortable with the Dream Pen as a price/value proposition.
The fact that this project, to date, has raised over $200,000 in less than a week leaves me somewhat speechless. It definitely speaks to the number and market power of pen enthusiasts around the world, because prior to this, I would have thought “Japanese urushi fountain pens” to be the definition of a hyper-niche market. Wancher has struck a chord, and hopefully this project turns into a massive success and serves as the debut of an exciting new player in the international fountain pen market.
Disclaimer: Wancher loaned me this pen free of charge for review purposes, to be returned upon completion of the review. The pen case pictured in this review was provided free of charge, for review purposes.