Retro 51

Retro 51 Ocean Slim Tornado Ballpoint Pen Review

The Retro 51 Ocean Slim Tornado is a new addition and part of Retro 51’s 2016 line up. This is my first foray into the world of Retro 51 Tornado pens. Before now I never found a Tornado that captured my attention enough to buy it, or pay a premium price for a pen I hadn't used or wasn't sure I would like (I'm looking at you Surfin').

Anyway focusing now on the Ocean Slim Tornado there are some real highlights to this pen. Firstly the slim barrel of is a big seller for me. I think the standard Tornados would be too wide and generally I don’t like fat pens as I find them uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. The slim versions of the Tornado are more of a standard pen width and therefore better suited to me.

Cool design

The design of this pen is something I was really drawn to. In addition to the Ocean colour there is a Graphite and Electron (a darker blue). On close inspection of each colour they have a slightly different pattern on the barrel. Viewing this online I wasn’t sure if this was etched into the pen, or just a printed pattern. It turns out it is only printed. The Ocean design is fab and I love the colours used. The only aspect I don’t like is the end of the pen. The change of material and the colour used here breaks up the seemless fade on the barrel. It's almost like Retro 51 had some trouble achieving the desired finish. It’s not too noticeable but it's not the perfect finish.

I really like the packaging of the Retro 51’s. The box that the Ocean Slim arrives in really is very cool and gives a great first impression. The tag line - ‘Life’s too short to carry an ugly pen’ is fab. It’s a really nice little branding touch. Normally I am not bothered by pen packaging, but I do appreciate the thought that companies spend on packaging. To me it shows consideration of the whole product and it helps set the tone of then pen you have bought. The box is so nice it could double up as a presentation box sitting proudly on your desk.

Very cool Retro 51 packaging

Very cool Retro 51 packaging

The Refill

This pen comes with a Schmidt REF71 ballpoint refill. The Tornado refills tend to get some good write ups, and as ballpoint refills go its good. The thing is I am just not a fan of a ballpoint refill when they are some really great alternative options.

A deconstructed Slim Tornado  

A deconstructed Slim Tornado  

The below photo shows how the refill performs. You get a nice black line on the page and it is a smooth writer. This refill has a wider line than I would like, around 0.7mm. You can however swap out this refill for a G2 refill (check out Ana’s amazing Epic Refill Guide for a list of compatible refills). After using the ballpoint for some time and giving it a chance I will definitely be finding an alternative option or perhaps even trying a refill hack. This will vastly improve my enjoyment of this pen and put it in the realm of the Karas Kustoms Render K.

A written review using the Schmidt REF71 refill

A written review using the Schmidt REF71 refill

Twist don’t click

The one element of the Tornado that I wasn’t expecting is the twist action to get the refill to appear. I was expecting the knock to click down like many other ballpoint pens, however the Tornado’s distinctive knurled knock is actually a twist mechanism. Who knew!

Overall impressions

I really like this pen. It’s a great design and the slim barrel works really well. It has become a pen that I carry with me on the move and use in my Leuchtuem1917 pen loop as it fits in snugly. The downside for me is the refill. This issue can be fixed very easily by swapping it out for a refill I know I will enjoy. I can see why there is hype around the Retro 51 pens and why people enjoy the limited editions and various colours available. For me I don't think I will be adding other Retro 51's to my pen collection, however I am pleased I own this one and will enjoy using it.

The Ocean Slim Tornado used in my Leuchtturm1917 pen look in my Travelers Notebook

The Ocean Slim Tornado used in my Leuchtturm1917 pen look in my Travelers Notebook

Retro 51 Hex-o-matic Review

I was drawn to the design of the Retro 51 Hex-o-matic as it looked somewhat like the Rotring pens which I was less likely to get my hands on. The design is very similar and in the black version of the Hex-o-matic there are very few visual differences. 

Packaging 

From the off you are impressed with the Retro 51 Hex-o-matic. The packaging shows some real attention to detail and hints at the quality you are going to get with the Hex-o-matic. It comes in a hexagonal black box (clever) with design line drawings in a bright blue print that really pops from the pack. It's pretty impressive. On delivery my box was pretty squished so perhaps it is not the most sturdy of packages, however thats what you get from lovely postal companies some times. 

There are some great call outs on the packaging as well. 'Life is too short to carry an ugly pen' is something that I definitely agree with.  

Design

The Retro 51 Hex-o-matic looks like a serious pen. It slim, sleek design gives the pen a sense of superior quality. From this perspective it ticks a lot of boxes. The slim barrel has a predominately hexagonal design - hence the name. The grip section on the Hex-o-matic has a knurled section which is subtle and not over the top, but makes the pen a bit easier to grip and write with for long periods. The knock at the top of the pen comes with the traditional Retro 51 design keeping the element of brand design across the range. The knock feels stable and secure and gives a nice loud click and has a great retro bold 51 logo right on the top. The pen clip also has the HEX-O-MATIC branding around the barrel with the O taking the shape of a small hexagon. Basically Retro 51 have thought through the design of the Hex-o-matic from top to bottom. It's branding from all angles and I like it.

Hex-o-matic branding 

Hex-o-matic branding 

Retro 51 branding even on the knock

Retro 51 branding even on the knock

Comfort

I was really surprised when I first pulled the Hex-o-matic from its packaging at how heavy it actually is. Now the Hex-o-matic barrel is slim, like a lot slimmer than you will get for other pens. Think pencil slim. For such a slim looking pen I was surprised about the weight. This does give the sense of superior quality products being used to create the pen but nonetheless this took some getting used to. After a while i don't really notice it too much and I didn't notice any issues writing for prolonged periods of time. 

Refill 

Where do I start on the subject of the refill. The Retro 51 Hex-o-matic comes with a EasyFlow 9000M refill in black. This gets a lot of good press for being a hybrid ink which ensures fast drying time, a smooth writing experience and dark lines. Clicky Post does a bespoke review on this refill and Mike gives the refill a good write up. Now the refill definitely gives you the dark lines it promises, which you can see in my handwritten review. Fast drying ink also ticks a box, I have not found any issues on this front when I have been using the pen. The Easy flow 9000M is a 'Parker style' refill which means that there are other refill options that would be suitable for this pen. One huge downside on this refill for me is there is no Fine option. This only comes in either a Medium or Bold nib which leaves me with limited options trying to get a super fine writing line. Using The Well Appointed Desk's awesome epic refill guide I will definitely be looking at an alternative refill option as I really do not like the EasyFlow 9000. I need to find a hack that will give me more enjoyment from using this pen. 

Summary

I think that the design on the Hex-o-matic is great. This looks like a smart stylish pen that makes you feel like you are using something of quality. It's a shame as I have heard positive things about the Schmidt style refills and there are numerous reviews which give praise to the EasyFlow 9000M. I would definitely recommend this pen despite the refill issues. Refills are something you can get round. This pen is pure quality and a great smart little pen which I enjoy using in my rotation.