I don’t think I realized until this week just how many special and limited edition pens Lamy released in 2019 (and the year is not even over yet). While the annual release of the special edition Safaris and AL-Star pens is a much-anticipated tradition for many, this year saw Lamy issue two more Studios, a special edition “LX”, a Scala, and the heavily hyped blue Lamy 2000 limited edition celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Bauhaus. While some portions of today’s post will strike readers as a bit of a rant, please know that I love Lamy. It’s one of my favorite brands, and makes one of my favorite pens of all time, the Lamy 2000. Also, it’s not that I don’t love the fact that Lamy is taking the time to develop all of these different pens and bring them to market, I just don’t understand the strategy behind doing it all at once, in what seems like a sudden flood of releases, with some of them receiving next to no promotion or build-up. With that said, let’s take a look at this year’s pens in more detail.
Lamy Studio Aquamarine and LX All Black Special Editions
I’d call the Lamy Studio one of the “unsung heroes” of the fountain pen world. It’s a well-made, reasonably priced mid-range fountain pen (or rollerball) that not only costs well under $100, but you can easily switch the nib (or even upgrade the nib from steel to gold) because it uses the same interchangeable nib format as the Safari and the AL-Star. Lamy has previously released special edition Studios - I’ve reviewed the Ruby Red and the Racing Green - but the emergig trend has been to release not one but two special editions. The 2018 pens included Terra Cotta and Olive, while this year’s releases are Aquamarine and the “LX All Black.” While I’m certainly glad to see Lamy pay more attention to the Studio, I’m not sure that I understand the strategy behind making two special editions in colors that don’t seem to relate to one another. And what about Lamy’s decision to port the “LX” moniker to the Studio? What does “LX” even mean now?
Both of the current special edition Studios are still available at retail. Our U.S.-based sponsor Pen Chalet has all of the 2018 AND 2019 Studios in stock, and if you are based outside of the U.S., shipping may be more economical to purchase from our Netherlands-based sponsor Appelboom. (Where possible, throughout this post, I will highlight more than one purchasing option, since many of these pens are not expensive enough to trigger free international shipping.)
Lamy LX “Marron” Special Edition
Lamy created some confusion a couple of years ago when they released the “LX,” which was essentially an AL-Star in “iPhone colors” with a nicer looking nib. (Read my review here.) The LX received a bit of attention, then quickly fell off the radar because not much was done to distinguish the pen in any way from the less expensive AL-Star. You can say I was surprised to see the LX “Marron” Special Edition appear at retailers over the past month. The pen is a nice chestnut-brown, with a bronze-colored clip to match, and it’s a gorgeous pen. (Confession: I bought one immediately.) What confused me was the decision to release a special edition LX, especially since I like this pen much more than this year’s “Bronze” AL-Star. Given the “bronze” clip on this pen, they should’ve passed on the LX special edition and just gone with the Marron.
Lamy Safari “Independence Day” U.S. Edition
I waited for a bit, but finally caved and ordered the “Independence Day” Safari for the white cap + red clip combination alone. A U.S. exclusive, Lamy released this pen just before the 4th of July, and despite being a bit puzzled by Lamy’s overall decision to release so many special editions this year, I can get behind the occasional regional special edition. Even the packaging has been upgraded for this pen, signaling that Lamy put a lot of thought into this one. You can purchase this pen from any U.S. Lamy retailer, including Pen Chalet (where the pen is currently on sale).
Lamy Pastel Safaris and Bronze AL-Star
Much has been written about Lamy’s decision to release three special edition Safaris, but viewed in the overall context of just how many special editions Lamy released in 2019, the decision seems even more puzzling to me. Look, the Pastel Safaris (offered in Light Blue, Mint, and Rose) are quite attractive, present a welcome departure from what was seeming like an endless flood of neon and “dark” themed pens, and they have sold well, but the decision to offer three of them has me thinking that someone over at Lamy can’t make hard decisions. The Bronze AL-Star looks fine but is just boring, and let’s be honest - the “matching” ink is orange, not “bronze.” As I noted above, I would have rather seen them release the excellent LX Marron as this year’s AL-Star release.
You can still purchase the Pastel Safaris, and likely will be able to do so for some time. Pen Chalet and Appelboom both have them in stock. Likewise, both Pen Chalet and Appelboom still carry the Bronze AL-Star.
Most of you will probably join me in asking: “What the heck is the Lamy Scala?” I saw this pen offered for sale a few years ago through EU-based retailers, but assumed it had been discontinued. It’s a metal pen that sort of looks like a chunkier, non-streamlined Studio. Apparently it comes in range of finishes, ranging from matte black to brushed steel to “piano black” to “titanium,” but the Scala is not widely sold in the U.S., with most retailers carrying only the “Dark Violet” and “Rose” special editions. These aren’t necessarily unattractive pens, but like most mid to high-end Lamy pens, the Scala is priced nearly twice as high in the U.S. as overseas. I’m not at all sure I see any value here, especially compared to the Studio. You can purchase a Studio with a gold nib for just slightly more than a steel nib Scala. This makes no sense, and Lamy either needs to fix the pricing discrepancy or discontinue this line.
Lamy 2000 Bauhaus 100th Anniversary
And, finally, the commentary most people are probably waiting for: my thoughts on the Bauhaus 100th Anniversary edition Lamy 2000. I did get one of the pens, and I love it. I was, however, extremely frustrated and even a bit angry at how hard it was to track one down. While I probably could have “pulled some strings” and asked a sponsor to set one aside for me, I didn’t do that, mainly because I wanted to write this article from the perspective of someone who loves the Lamy 2000, wanted to participate in this particular anniversary release, and was attempting to find one of the pens at retail without having to pay what I expect will be extortionate prices on the secondary market. It was a difficult, frustrating experience that was completely unnecessary.
The Lamy 2000 is Lamy’s flagship pen. It’s marketed as an example of simple, form-follows-function Bauhaus-inspired design. The Lamy 2000 is also reasonably priced - a piston-filling pen with a gold nib that you can often find for well under $200. The pen is widely loved, and I’m not the only one who has a soft spot for the 2000 because it was the first “nice” pen they ever purchased. So I will say this: It makes absolutely zero sense for Lamy (or their distributor) to price this pen at $500 in the U.S. market, with a release so limited that I’ve heard only 80 - yes, less than 100 - pens made it to the United States. Retailers are holding raffles for the “opportunity” to purchase this pen. In light of Lamy’s decision to flood the market with special editions in the Studio, LX, and Scala lines, it’s absurd that the Lamy 2000 received such a limited release. Sure, I understand the business strategy of selling a smaller number of higher-priced luxury items, but I’d venture that Lamy could have sold thousands of these pens at $300, or even $350. Hype and artificial scarcity during an initial release can drive demand, but with Lamy, if there are not going to be any more of these pens made, what are customers going to come back to buy? Another standard black Lamy 2000? I’m no design historian, but to me, their strategy also seems inconsistent with Bauhaus principles - make well-designed, functional objects made to be used, not sit on a shelf as overpriced collectors’ items.
At the end of the day, I still bought a blue Lamy 2000 at the more reasonable European pricing, and fully intend to ink this pen up and use it just like the old standby that I used to draft this post. I will write in the notebook and throw the box away. The Lamy 2000 remains my favorite pen ever, and I couldn’t bring myself to pass up the opportunity to get the blue one if I found a pen available. Fortunately, Sakura Fountain Pen Gallery in Belgium came through, but I don’t know whether anyone else still has the pens in stock. You’ll have to look hard.
Takeaways and Final Thoughts
Taken individually, I can say that I like most of the pens Lamy has released in 2019. Taken collectively, they don’t offer much insight into where Lamy is going as a brand or the company’s overall strategy due to the marked lack of consistency or any common theme. The decision to flood the market with inexpensive special editions in the Safari, AL-Star, and Studio models, and to release special edition Scalas while severely restricting their Bauhaus 100th Anniversary Lamy 2000, is incomprehensible to me and already has alienated Lamy’s customer base.
As I alluded to above, it’s great to see bursts of creativity from what, traditionally, has been a somewhat staid German company, but someone needs to start making difficult decisions on their lower-end and mid-range releases, while at the same time catering to and engaging more with the enthusiasts who are basically lining up to give Lamy money for higher-end goods. If customers can’t actually get these pens, they will spend that money elsewhere, and eventually give up and stop coming back.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I purchased the Lamy 2000 “blue Bauhaus” with my own funds, for my own collection, but acquired the other pens pictured here from Pen Chalet and Appelboom using store credit generated through their affiliate programs.