We are having weird weather here. Less hours of light, gray days and lower temperatures. I realized last week that I was using my metal pens less than usual and came to think of the Lamy Noto, a faithful companion I first got around two and a half years ago. The first thing you notice about the Lamy Noto is the unmistakable design by Naoto Fukasawa. You don’t need to be an expert in industrial design to realize that a lot of thought went into the making of this pen. I had seen pictures of the Noto and assumed it was some sort of Lamy’s take on the disposable ballpoint, until I saw it in person.
That assumption quickly changed when I noticed its size, it is bigger and more substancial than I thought, its length and width concealed by the excellent proportions and balance between angles and curves. Unlike the sharp angles and flat surfaces from the Safari, the Noto can feel like a kid’s idea of a modern pen. That’s not to say the Noto is childlike. It certainly is youthfull and fresh, but the essence of the Noto is friendliness and simplicity. It is immediately understandable from every side. Colors are striking, shape and texture are comfortable and light.
The clicker is smooth and silent in operation, keeping its secrets to itself and out of your mind. I find myself thinking the sound of the clic, but the Noto does not need it. Never does it hesitate or fails to expose/retract the tip and make it clear. When the tip is exposed, the clicker stays depressed and does not rattle. Something so simple yet so unusual. The pen discreetly metamorphosing from rest to work. The clip integrates nicely into the body of the pen, fullfiling its purpose without distraction, without hindering how you position the pen in your hand. The triangular cross section of the Noto’s body seamlessly transitions into the tip.
Another difference with the Safari is the matte finish of the Noto. Scratches are not noticeable and reflections are dulled into soft gradients of light. The first negative I find: the finish tends to get shinnier when it wears off. It happens after hours and hours of having the pen in your hand, but it happens. A reminder, perhaps, that this is a physical object with a limited life span. I am captivated by this dance between industrial and organic, between the physical and the ethereal soul.
Then you write with it and there is no doubt this is a serious pen. I am not particularly fond of the Lamy M16 refill. It is big, metallic and well made. The pivot at its top keeps it nicely centered inside the pen, preventing scratches and unnecessary wear (the Lamy Vista would definitely be less without small details like that) and it makes a decent ballpoint. But not a remarkable one by any means. Its long neck prevents the use of any other refill for no apparent reason and what is that plastic insert in the middle? Perhaps my first impression is tainted by the experience of having to replace the first M16 I used; it got dry and scratchy. Maybe I am spoiled by the smoothness and perfect lines from fountain pens. I want to say what I remember: that there’s nothing special about it. But then I see my Lamy Noto is writing better than my trusty Zebra F-301. The only thing I could ask for is a more vivid blue, like the Stabilo Bionic. The Noto even gives tactile feedback when, you screw it back after replacing the refill, letting you know everything when everything is perfectly aligned.
My only serious complaint is that my white Noto came with a slightly, submillimetrically loose clip. Since the clip is responsible for holding the refill in place, the tip is a tiny bit recessed when exposed. You will notice if you look closely at the following picture.
In the end I think I like it more than I’m willing to admit. I want it in orange, but Lamy seems determined to make the Noto grow up and is offering now in more “mature” colors like navy and wine with touches of matte silver, like a graduation gown of sorts.