Monday, August 31, 2020

Fountain Pen Review: Laban 325 Wisteria

In 2009, barely a year into full fountain pen use, I witnessed for the first time how fountain pen enthusiasts go crazy when they see notable personalities use fountain pens. On a world tour, then Pope Benedict XVI was seen signing a book using a Laban fountain pen, and many people just raved about it! Since then, I have learned that many personalities I admire use fountain pens: Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, Princess Maha, to name a few. Seeing them using fountain pens helped me learn about these writing tools—brand, origin, material. After seeing Laban with the Pope, I believed Laban is an Italian product for a very long time. Until COVID-19 came along and the brand launched Write to Heal last May. It was only then that I realized Laban is not an Italian brand, but from a neighboring country to the Philippines – Taiwan!

Many of my friends at Fountain Pen Network Philippines joined Laban's Write to Heal, a fountain pen grab bag project to help frontline health workers. I missed joining the two campaigns, so I had to get a Laban pen to know more about its brand and products. I saw that my friends got different pens from the Laban 325 Collection, so I chose the newest pen from the series: Wisteria, an exquisite fountain pen in ivory and purple acrylic resin inspired by the purple Wisteria flower.

Laban 325 Wisteria

Reading about the company, I learned that Taipei-based Laban Pen Corporation is a young pen brand, founded in 1981 by John Hu and his brother Charles. John started the company by exporting paper products, gifts, and writing instruments. The brothers then built their own manufacturing plant intending to produce the highest quality Silver and Rhodium-plated writing instruments. Laban's initial releases were high-end pens such as the 1993 Filigree line of metal overlay pens using a specialized etching process.

Through the years, Laban has successfully established itself as a major pen brand. From 1997 to 1999, the brand was the exclusive manufacturer of the Vatican Museum line of pens and received the Best Writing Instrument of 2004 from the Royal Academy of Arts of the United Kingdom. In 2011, Laban was the Reader’s Choice Award in Pen World Magazine. But the most notable personality to use a Laban pen is probably Pope Benedict XVI when he signed that book in 2009!

The Wisteria comes in a classy blue pull-out box lined with soft white satin. An orange ribbon and two overlapping elastic bands hold the pen in place inside the box. Together with the fountain pen, the box also contains an ink converter, a warranty booklet, and Laban logo and Wisteria stickers.

Inside the box: fountain pen, warranty booklet, bookmark, Laban logo, and Wisteria stickers.

The Laban Wisteria pen is inspired by the elegant purple Wisteria flowers, the noblest color in Japan's  Heian period when the color purple was associated with the ruling class. The Wisteria flower clusters also symbolize "predetermined driving force between people." 

Aside from the purple Wisteria, Laban's 325 Collection offers other beautiful finishes with the signature ivory acrylic and gold trims: Black Cambridge, Burgundy Cambridge, Flame (red), Ocean (blue), Sun (orange), and Forest (green). All of the 325 finishes are also available as rollerball pens.

Laban Wisteria is a beautiful fountain pen. The combination of purple marble, ivory resin, and gold trims is classy. It shows sophistication and elegance. I am glad I chose this finish over the Sun (orange) pen because it has given me a better appreciation of the color purple.

The 325 Wisteria fountain pen has the following measurements:
  • Length, capped: 5.9 in | 15 cm
  • Length, uncapped: 5.15 in | 13 cm
  • Length, cap posted: 6.8 in | 17.2 cm
  • Length, barrel only: 3.6 in | 9.14 cm
  • Length, section to nib: 2.15 in | 5.5 cm 
  • Length, cap: 2.7 inches | 6.9 cm
  • Diameter, barrel: 0.51 in | 1.29 cm
  • Diameter, section: 0.41 in | 1.04 cm
  • Weight, capped: 34 g | 1.2 oz
  • Weight, uncapped: 13.5 g | 0.48 oz
  • Weight, cap only: 22.5 g | 0.78 oz

The Wisteria is a heavy pen especially with the cap on. It's heavier than a Mont Blanc 149 (32 g), Tibaldi N°60 (28 g), or a Lamy 2000 (18 g). It can be used for writing with the cap posted, but it will be top-heavy, affecting one's writing comfort. Usually, posting makes pens uncomfortably long and top-heavy. Thankfully, the Wisteria can be used comfortably without the need to post the cap.

The Wisteria's cap, section + converter, and barrel.

The Laban 325's cap bears all the branding for this pen. The gold-plated clip is firm, sturdy, and holds the pen securely in place. Two slim gold bands sit on top of the clip, and a gold Laban medallion adorns the finial. Laban's logo is etched on the wide gold cap band. There's indeed a lot of gold in this pen's cap, but that's fine with me, I actually love it!

This cap bears most of this pen's branding in gold. 
Laban's logo is etched on the wide cap band.
Laban's logo is etched on the wide cap band.
The Laban 325 Wisteria has a threaded metal section and threaded metal insert in the barrel, which adds to its durability and stability.
The Wisteria fountain pen can be filled with ink using cartridges or converters. A converter is included with each pen purchase, and their logo is printed on the converter.

Laban offers the 325 Wisteria with a size 6 nib made from gold-plated stainless steel manufactured by Jowo in Germany. The nib widths available are the following: EF, F, M, B, 1.5 stub, 14K flex EF, and 14K flex F. The markings on the nib include "3952," Laban, "Germany" (place of nib manufacture), and "B" (nib width).

It took me a long time to figure out the meaning of "3952" on this pen's nib. Laban doesn't provide anything about it on their website, and I know it couldn't be the series name. Then I remembered that Platinum's use of 3776  refers to the elevation of Mount Fuji. So I did some research and looked for mountains in Taiwan that could have an elevation of 3,952 meters. I found it! 3952 comes from the elevation of Mount Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan, and the highest point in the western Pacific region outside of the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The No. 6 Broad nib on the Wisteria wrote smoothly out of the box.

The 325 Wisteria is a standard full-length fountain pen, sharing almost the same length as a Bexley Intrepid or Edison Collier, though it is heavier. Its middle section is as thick as the Intrepid and Collier, but it's a well-balanced pen that is comfortable to use.

The Laban 325 Wisteria shares the same length as a Bexley Intrepid or Edison Collier.
Uncapped, the Wisteria is shorter than the Intrepid and shares almost the same length as the Collier, TWSBI ECO, and Lamy Al-Star.
Gold-plated and two-toned gold nibs. From left: Bexley Intrepid (B), Edison Collier (B), Laban Wisteria (B), Dryad Pen (B), Platinum 3776 (B), and Conklin Duragraph™ (M).

To test how this beautiful purple fountain pen writes, I filled it with Lamy Dark Lilac, a matching purple ink. The pen wrote okay out of the box and I did not experience any hard starts, but I was not happy with it. I cleaned the pen and filled it with an old-time favorite purple ink, J. Herbin Poussière de Lune. It was a perfect match! I was in fountain pen writing heaven! With Poussière de Lune, the No. 6 broad nib wrote smoothly, there were no writing skips, no inky blobs, I had no trouble writing at all. I tested the pen and ink combination on several paper brands, and the best writing experience is (still) on Tomoe River paper. The Laban 325 Wisteria is such an enjoyable pen. It's elegant, classy, and one that can be used for long periods of writing without any discomfort.

The stainless steel Jowo Broad nib in Laban Wisteria fountain pen is a joy to write with, especially if it's paired with a wet ink such as J. Herbin Poussière de Lune. The nib just glides on the smooth Tomoe River paper. 

The Wisteria fountain pen can also be used to do ink art and simple shapes. I enjoyed doing the ink art on this page, along with this beautiful wedding poem by the English poet Wilfred Owen. I can't seem to explain it, but the moment I opened the box and saw the Wisteria fountain pen, I thought of a beautiful, romantic wedding. I felt like it's the perfect wedding pen! And for the review, I found the perfect wedding poem! Beautiful pen, lovely purple ink, meaningful love poem — it's a perfect combination!

I am very happy with the Laban 325 Wisteria fountain pen, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to explore and know this excellent brand from Taiwan. It's a beautiful pen and well-built for long-term use. Laban is dedicated to crafting excellent pens using only the best materials. Get one for your collection.

The Laban 325 Wisteria fountain pen is available at where it retails for around US$140 (EF to 1.5 stub) to US$280 (14K Flex EF and 14K Flex F). Aside from the 325 Collection, Laban also offers the following collections: Abalone, Antique, Antique'II, Canyon, Flora, Galileo, Mento, Mother of Pearl, Pocket Pen, Rosa, Skeleton, Solar, and Taroko. Laban offers pens in different materials including aluminum, brass, abalone, mother of pearl, resin, and silver.

To learn more about Laban, where to buy their pens, and for other details on purchasing their pens, visit their website at or follow them on social media:

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