In the High Artistry Homage to Hannibal Barca Limited Edition 1, Montblanc pays tribute to Hannibal Barca, one of the greatest military figures of all time. Best known as the general who marched his army – complete with war elephants – across the Alps to wage war against the Roman Empire, Hannibal had numerous other claims to fame. At the Battle of Cannae, for instance, he led an army of 50,000 to destroy a much larger Roman force numbering over 86,000, which effectively crippled the Roman army in a single day.
The High Artistry Homage to Hannibal Barca Limited Edition 1 fittingly saw Montblanc pull out all the stops for its development and production. For a start, behold the white gold and diamond detailing set against a full pave of blue sapphires. While the centrepiece of this writing instrument is the elephant trunk-shaped clip, Montblanc has included several other details that tell of Hannibal’s story, such as the nib, which bears a special design representing the Carthaginian deity Baal’Hammon, and the engraving on the barrel, which traces his route from Carthage to the Rome.
At €1.5 million, this piece unique comes with an equally superlative price point. Montblanc has also three other series of related writing instruments numbering five, 10, and 86 pieces, to further explore other aspects of Hannibal’s life.
There’s much to wax lyrical about, but here are some salient points:
Montblanc’s past limited edition writing instruments have focused on artistes, writers, and political leaders. The choice to feature a military leader may seem atypical, until you consider the fact that some of their previous writing instruments have actually focused on Roman emperors who, by the nature of their positions, were also involved in military affairs.
Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the maison’s interest lies in key figures who have shaped history in one way or another. Hannibal Barca definitely qualifies, given his impact on the Roman Empire and its subsequent effect on Europe’s development. Beyond this, he’s also considered to be one of the world’s greatest strategists, with his tactics still studied today in military academies such as West Point. Finally, there’s his passage through the Alps with an entire army – until Hannibal did this, the mountain range was considered impassable.
According to Montblanc, the initial design phase involved a long discussion within the creative team, simply because there were so many elements that could be presented on the writing instruments. There was the man himself, of course, but the Battle of Cannae and the Alp crossing were also important elements that were up for consideration. The final decision was to combine these aspects in different ways, rather than tell a completely separate story in each series of writing instruments. With this decided, the creative department then handed the product development over to the craftsmen, who went on to ensure that the most suitable materials and techniques were utilised for every individual element on the final products.
A core element of this series of writing instruments is the pen clip, which has been designed to look like an elephant head to pay tribute to Hannibal’s Alp crossing with war elephants. The first challenge for the design team was to create a sophisticated design that’s clearly an elephant head, while maintaining the martial prowess that their source of inspiration had.
The product development team didn’t have it easy either. Basically, every writing instrument has three main technical hurdles to clear. The first is the nib, which affects the writing experience due to its interaction with the paper it touches. The second is the piston and feed system, which stores the ink and channels it to the nib. The final one is the clip, as counterintuitive as it sounds. It’s not a very obvious problem to be solved, but according to Montblanc, a clip must have just the right level of tightness – neither too stiff nor too flexible – in order to clip onto something with a reassuring level of pressure and strength. What’s more, it must also fulfil this function flawless, and not just for a month or a year, but forever. With a special design like this, the challenge to create a well-functioning clip becomes even more difficult.