Dunhill and Namiki make writing history Featured

The collaboration between the two historic maisons has taken the Japanese art of Makie to new heights

There are many reasons why the collaboration between Dunhill and Namiki has been so successful in the world of stylography. Besides meeting the basic criterion of writing effortlessly, their pens are decorated using a traditional Japanese fine art technique known as Makie. With over 1,500 years of history, Makie is a craft in which precious materials such as gold powder, silver powder, gold leaf and mother of pearl are used to create an opulent, three-dimensional pattern on a lacquer ground. It is the high point of the concept of "East meets West."

Makie developed in early 19th-century Japan. For Ryousuke Namiki , owner of a pen factory, the design of writing instruments was a lifetime passion. He pioneered the use of iridium in manufacturing gold nibs, increasing their softness and smoothness in writing. Despite this great invention, Mr. Namiki had been unable to launch his pens on markets outside Japan. So he decided to go a step further, and had the idea of incorporating traditional Japanese art into the pen’s design. In 1920, he invited a Makie artist named Shogo to come on board. Together they developed a brand-new Namiki pen which had the innovative nib and a beautiful Makie design. During a sales trip, in which Namiki was introducing his pen to the luxury markets of New York, Paris and Shanghai, a number of brands – Cartier, Tiffany & Co, and Asprey – saw Mr. Namiki’s design and fell in love. They started selling the pens in their boutiques, and Namiki became international.

By 1928, the Namiki brand had become firmly established. The company decided that it would be a good idea to promote the Makie technique still further in the world of writing instruments. Namiki began working with London’s Dunhill, and they created a new collection. Gonroku Matsuda, the most famous Makie artist of his time, was in charge of design. He created a lacquered pen engraved with the Dunhill and Namiki logos. The beautiful pen was an instant success. Great personalities, such as the film star Valentino, and even the Emperor of Thailand, became fans of the pens. In 1930, Dunhill became Namiki’s official distributor, consolidating Namiki’s position as a leading writing instrument manufacturer.

During World War II, production of the unique Namiki pen stopped. Collectors are familiar with the fact that there are only about 40 Makie artists in the world who are capable of drawing the Dunhill-Namiki pen designs. Every pen is entirely handmade. It takes about three months to create a basic Makie pattern. A complicated model may require up to six months of Makie-crafting and over 80 individual production steps to complete. Different from diamond-set writing instruments, the most valuable, most collectible Dunhill-Namiki pens bear the names of their artist, so every pen is unique. Today, until you have a Dunhill-Namiki, your pen collection will be considered as incomplete!

Today, the Dunhill-Namiki collaboration continues, even though Namiki has been purchased by Japan’s famous Pilot pen brand. The Dunhill-Namiki pen still retains the same superlative reputation as when it was first created so many years ago. Precious materials such as real gold powder and silver powder are still used in the design. What is different is that, back then, the design was much more traditional with a strong reference to Bushido aesthetics. You can see what the oldest designs at antique stores in London. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that the antique Dunhill-Namiki pens are as beautiful as ever, untinged by the passage of time. This goes to show that an authentic work of art is truly timeless.

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