A review of sorts - the Surrokko fountain pen
The Surrokko is, to the best of my knowledge, the first modern mass-produced fountain pen (and rollerball) to be designed and manufactured here in Aotearoa New Zealand. As such I absolutely had to have one for my collection! I’m going to be nitpicking in my review because…well, that’s what Kiwis do to their fellow Kiwis?
The first thing I want to mention is the name. I kinda hate it. If you go to the website (https://www.surrokko.com) the makers of this pen explain the name…but. The spelling makes me go ARGH (#proofreaderproblems) . If they had spelt it Sirocco, after the famous native kakapo parrot who once attempted to mate with a zoologist’s head on camera - only in NZ, etc! - I would have forgiven them. But to name it for a wind that occurs on the other side of the world and then SPELL IT WRONG? No. Just no. However, moving on…
As you can see in the photos below the Surrokko is thoroughly packaged. The outer black cardboard sleeve with the branding on it is removed to reveal a plain black cardboard box that has an open front, and within that is the main box. The black and grey checker pattern on the top of the box is accented with a red stripe down the side which immediately evokes racing cars, but the hard modern effect is softened slightly by the logo, which is of two native falcons in a tree.
This main box is interesting in that it opens from the top, not the front, revealing the pen inside on a cream suede bed. I like the overall look of this, it’s very stylish and for some reason makes me think of coffins and vampires! I do think though that the luxurious presentation is let down somewhat by the 2 pieces of white polystyrene (or something similar) that hold the pen in place. Black foam would have been more in keeping with the overall aesthetic. On the whole though the box is super cool and bound to have the desired effect when this pen is given as a gift. Unfortunately I, like many other pen collectors, already have a pile of nice pen boxes that are of no utility whatsoever, and this case will end up being one of them. I suspect however that veteran pen collectors are not really the target audience here- engineers, designers, graphic artists and business people would be my guess, and they may like a cool place to keep a special pen and display it on a desk.
Now, on to the pen itself. On first glance it appears to be a minimalist, modern style of metal-based pen, not so different from many others that have appeared on Kickstarter. The tapered, matte black body reminds me of the Rotring Art Pen. The clip is a simple folded piece of silver metal, engraved with the Surrokko logo in black, and reasonably stiff. When you pick the pen up though, you’ll notice a few unique things. Firstly, the finial features the twin falcon logo engraved in white. Secondly, the taper on the body of the pen is not symmetrical - it actually has a flat(ish) side meant to help prevent rolling. And finally there is the finish, which is described on the website as a “ceramic anodising solution.” It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever touched on a pen (but perhaps I haven’t bought the right ones.) Very matte and non-slip, but with a velvety texture. It feels to me as though it should be slightly squishy or rubbery, but it definitely isn’t.
So far, so good. A stylish modern pen with a couple of interesting touches. But when you take the cap off….things get a bit wild! The cap is a push fit, held in place with a red o-ring (the pen shipped with 2 spares, which is nice as I don’t know where one would get o-rings in this colour.) At this stage anyone who has read The Night Circus will probably start grinning just like I did, because check out that black and white striped grip and the red nib! Black and white and splashes of red is 100% Night Circus and fans of the book will love this pen for that reason alone. (A note here about the colour scheme: the official flag of NZ is very boring and almost interchangeable with the Australian one. But the EMBLEM of Aotearoa NZ is a silver fern on a black background, and most of our national sports teams use some variation of this logo and black or white uniforms. Additionally the flag of the indigenous Maori people is black, white and red, so this is probably where the colour inspiration came from. Night Circus fans still have every right to be delighted though!)
The 12mm diameter grip is heavily machined -those white stripes are actual grooves, not just paint. They are well done and there are no sharp edges. If you are the type to hold your pen in a death grip you will definitely notice them when writing though (maybe treat it as a reminder to loosen up!) The idea behind them is to make the pen easier to hold, but I’m not sure they were necessary for that as the matte finish is quite non-slip as is. They are very eye catching however and depending on your proclivities might remind you of engines, gun barrels, Tim Burton or striped circus tents.
But the most eye-catching part of this pen is definitely that blood-red nib! It is made by Bock and it sounds like the colour is applied in-house by them. You can still see a bit of their standard nib engraving, but the coating appears to be quite thick; I won’t be entirely surprised if it wears over time, but for now it looks fantastic.
For some reason the pen unscrews not where you think it would, at the top of the grip, but right down by the nib. Once removed you are left with a protruding piece of plastic to fit a cartridge on to (the pen shipped with one of those neat little tins of Herbin Perle Noir cartridges.) Due to the tapered shape of the barrel the pen can only take short international cartridges or a mini converter. (I haven’t tried one as yet, but the Kaweco and/or Sailor mini converters seem like they should fit.) I believe this indicates once again the target audience for this pen, who would likely prefer the convenience of cartridges over fussing with a tiny converter that probably holds less ink anyway.
In the hand the pen seems well-balanced, but at 35g unposted is heavier than my personal preference (the pen seems to post ok, but I’d be worried about marking the finish over time, and at 142mm long unposted the Surrokko will be fine to use that way for most people.) Those who like a weighty pen will enjoy it. My broad nib has good flow and is an absolute nail with no flex or line variation at all. It is fairly smooth but not the smoothest I’ve encountered, perhaps due to the red plating (though that doesn’t extend onto the ball of the nib tip.)
For me this is not a pen I would pick up for lengthy writing sessions, because the weight and that grooved grip aren’t great for slightly arthritic fingers. But it is definitely convenient for shorter notes with the press-fit cap and anti-roll shape. And what’s more, it’s FUN!
On that note, I do wonder who the Surrokko is meant to be fun FOR. I feel like the very sleek first impression is completely counteracted when you take the cap off, and then you’ve got the falcon engraving and the chequered pattern on the main box. It seems as though elements of motor racing, NZ national identity, vampires, machinery and Nightmare before Christmas have all been shoehorned into one item,so there isn’t really a cohesive look to the overall package. But perhaps the business people and designers that the pen is aimed at won’t mind that. And really, I’m not sure I do either. The Surrokko oozes quality in its manufacture and packaging and it pleases my little black Goth heart rather a lot! That name though…..