Last February, my husband bought me an old-style Cross Century II fountain pen. I can’t really consider it vintage, but I know that this was before Cross was bought by a Chinese company. The logo is different and the design is also slightly different. The body of that Cross Century II pen was a little beat up, it has a lot of microscratches, and I wasn’t too keen on the stainless steel body. All it took to change my opinion about it was to ink it up and write with it. It has one of the best steel nibs I’ve tried so far, rivaling many of my gold-nibbed pens. The steel nib was incredibly smooth and the flow was wonderful. The pen itself felt wonderful in my hand. It quickly became one of my favorites (I haven’t taken it out of rotation since I got it).
Fast forward to last weekend. I went to this warehouse sale where I bought two sets of Century IIs because I was completely infatuated with the pen that I have had in my EDC for months.
When I inked it up and tried to write with it, the nibs were good but not as good as the old style of Cross Century II that I have. It just felt so different. I tuned the nibs a bit to lessen the feedback, that worked, but there’s really just something different about the older pen.
At first glance, they look identical aside from the color. It’s just when you give it a closer look that you realize some differences. Of course the most noticeable is the logo. The one on the left is the old logo and the one on the right is the modern one. I prefer the old logo because it’s prettier. The slim and boxy style looks classier. Even the way it’s stamped on the clip looks better. The modern logo’s kerning looks too wide and the style isn’t that distinctive.
The cap of the old Cross Century II has an additional etching near the top. It’s very faint, but I thought it really tied up the design quite well. The branding was well-made. The caps of the modern Century IIs don’t have this little detail.
The finials are also different. The one on the left is the old style, the one on the right is the modern style. Again, I prefer the continuity of the design of the old style of Century II. The black disc on the finial of the modern pen looks like it serves no purpose and makes it feel like an afterthought, or something they did because they couldn’t make the top of the pen all in one piece. The old style of the cap is also a tad longer than the modern ones, though they both have the same kind of plastic inner cap that makes sure it secures the cap when closed and that it posts on the pen without scratching the finish of the barrel.
The nib detailing is also different. The etching on the nibs look the same, but the etching on the old style of Century II seems more polished, deeper, and smoother. The modern nib (on the right) looks to be etched just to pattern it after the original design of the nib. However you can see that the etching is not deep and the finish is not as smooth.
A closer look at the nib’s iridium ball also shows that the two are quite different. The older nib (left) is less bulbous. Look at the size of the tipping on the modern Century II (right).
I’m not sure how the tipping of the modern nib affects the writing, but I feel that the old nib lays down a more consistent line, and it’s really a lot smoother than the new ones. Watch the writing samples below:
I’m not saying the modern Cross pens are not good. I’m saying that they’re not as good as the old style of Century IIs. The workmanship is just very different. Even the way that the trims are put together look much better than the modern pens. Well, like what they say, they don’t make ’em like they used to. 🙂
These are good pens, though. They write without skipping or hard starting. They are good steel-nibbed pens and they look great too. My favorite of the two would have to be the blue one. It’s a little pearlescent in color and I inked it with Emerald of Chivor because…sparkles!