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360

Maker: OMAS.

In materials released by the company on the release of the 360, the company essentially listed “user error” as one of the reasons for the design.  A large number of pens, it was said, were being returned as defective, not performing properly as pens, and examination at the factory suggested that many of the problems were down to how the user presented the pen to the paper.  The triangular cross-section of the 360 was meant to push the writer into holding the pen at least the right way up, an effort seen in the school pens of at least two other pen makers and dabbled with as far back as the 1960s.

Since the model’s introduction in 1996, there has been an almost dizzying array of variants offered.  Even leaving aside limited editions, of which there were several, there were two sizes to start with; the rather large regular and the even-bigger Magnum.  There was also a selection to be made in fillers, as some were piston fillers while others had an “Advanced Cartridge System” in which the cartridges were loaded into a tube which was inserted through the tail of the pen.  I have a little trouble picturing how this system managed to extract a cartridge which was attached to the feed nipple, although the beginning of an answer may be seen in some reports of it being impossible to load cartridges from some makers as they were too wide for the tolerances of the tube.

A third size was added in 2003, the Mezzo; as the name suggests, it was less gargantuan than the other two versions, and had a cartridge tray rather than a tube.  In 2007 there was a redesign which removed the taper from the pen’s ends and rounded out the section’s triangularity; the latter was a brief experiment, but the standard model of 360 has retained the new exterior shape.  About the same time, the Magnum was withdrawn from the line, and the Mezzo has since ceased to appear as a fountain pen.  In 2011, the original shape was re-introduced as the “360 Vintage”, a limited edition with a new colour each year.  The standard models are cartridge fillers of apparently conventional internal layout, there being no mention of the ACS on OMAS’s site, but the Vintage versions retain a piston filler.

In common with many Italian pens, and also with expensive pens of all stripes, the 360 is somewhat more notable for looks than function.  While reports are far from universal, there are issues with flow, piston function, and general quality control.  Some have also questioned the relatively small capacity of the piston fillers; some of this handicap derives from an unusually long filler mechanism, but there is also the physical limitations of the body size; a circular cavity in a triangular body will necessarily leave about half the body’s volume unused (I’ll let you work it out yourself, if you like, with this assist– for a triangle with sides of 1, the biggest circle that can fit inside will be radius 0.28, and that doesn’t allow for ink-containing walls at the points of contact).

It is, thanks to its shape, extremely comfortable pen to hold, lacking the sense of overwhelming girth with I find attends many other large modern pens.  The “Vintage” LE which I was able to examine is also a light pen, relative to the size.  I harbour some concerns about the durability of the trim at the front of the section, although it’s described as rolled 18K gold; when filling in the piston version or with an attached converter, that trim will get into the ink, and ink is usually not pH neutral.  Likewise, human skin secretions tend to be acidic, and the trim is apt to come in contact with the moving finger.  However, this doubt comes without documentary support– while researching, I encountered recent pictures of older models without any sign of degradation, and dd not find any complaints about it.

Production Run: 1996 to 2016.

Cost When New: The 2014 Catalogue costs show the standard model for €336.07, the 2013 Vintage LE for €405.74, the 2014 Vintage LE for €942.62, and the Lucens LE (with trim and material meant to invoke a model of that name from the 1930s) at €1,229.  I’ve found a fairly reputable report of $495 from 2006; this is for a regular-size model without any amazement in its trim-level.

Size: 15.2 cm long capped, 18.0 cm posted, 13.5 cm uncapped (Vintage LE).

Point: 18K gold.

Body: Depending on variant, it could be cotton resin, celluloid, metal, or wood.

Filler: Piston, capacity approx. 1.2 ml (vintage LE).  Cartridge models will hold international cartridges; one long or two short (1.4 ml  or 2 x 0.6 ml.).  Current cartridge pens will accept converters; I haven’t been able to confirm, but I doubt an ACS pen will tolerate one.

OMAS 360 in its earlier shape.  This is actually the 2013 limited edition.

OMAS 360 in its earlier shape. This is actually the 2013 limited edition in “Smoky” resin.

360 Vintage ready for the pocket. The clip design interests me; it looks like it will hold well and not do too much injury to the pocket. The updated design uses something of a rather different shape.  I also like the honesty of the brass pin that attaches the blind cap to the mechanism.

 

 

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