From the “No, it’s not the 3776 Century” file, I present the…
Platinum 3776 Balance Maestro Fountain Pen (PTB-5000B)
Nib: Extra Fine
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (proprietary)
About the Pen:
Before I start telling you what this pen IS, let me begin with what it ISN’T. This is not the 3776 Century, Platinum’s highly lauded, entry-level gold-nibbed pen that’s at the top of many a “Recommended Fountain Pens” list. This review is for the Balance Maestro, the Century’s little cousin. It’s still part of the 3776 lineup and still an excellent writer. But unlike the Century, it’s more of a general entry-level fountain pen. It has a simpler design, sports a steel nib instead of the 14k gold nib found on the Century (although it is gold plated), and is does not have the slip-and-seal mechanism inside the cap.
There is also another Platinum Balance design (PGB-3000) that’s more sleek & modern looking (and I think more common among retailers).
The subject of this review is the “3776 Balance Maestro” edition (PTB-5000B), which has the simpler, less expensive parts of the standard Balance, but with the classic 3776 styling. Okay, now that we have that straight, let’s talk about the 3776 Balance Maestro!
In many respects, the Platinum 3776 Balance Maestro falls in line with most of the other common Japanese pen models. Optimists will say it has a classic cigar shape to it. Pessimists will say it’s nondescript at best, boring at worst. It definitely resembles the 3776 Century…and classic models from other companies (compare it to the Pilot Custom 74, the Sailor 1911, Montblanc 146). Other than that, I’m not sure how much I can add that hasn’t already been said about all those other cigar-shaped pens.
They make this model in just two colors: Black and Wine Red, both of which have gold furniture. The entire body is made of acrylic resin. It’s very lightweight, but it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s actually pretty glossy and shiny.
The barrel itself is a single piece of resin. It has no end cap or blind cap, instead the barrel gently tapers down toward the end, where it’s just rounded off.
The section is the same size and shape as the 3776 Century. It has an even taper down from the barrel toward the nib, where it ends in a gold ring that flares out a bit. It’s not a long section, but it’s not too short, either. There’s plenty of room for my fingers, although if you tend to hold your pens a little farther back from the nib, you may find your fingers resting on the barrel threads. Fortunately, the threads aren’t sharp at all, so it’s not uncomfortable to write like that.
The cap is where all the fancy happens…if you can call it fancy. The finial is a simple rounded dome, the same color as the rest of the body. Although, it’s a bit oblong, shaped more like the pointy end of an egg than a dome.
The clip is a standard 3776 clip, identical to the one on the Century.
And the cap sports a gold band with Platinum #3776 Japan engraved around it. This is easily my least favorite part of the pen. I don’t care for the engraving…I think it looks a little cheap. The engraving is shallow and the font is less than classy. The cap band isn’t a uniform shape. It’s tapered/beveled at the bottom, and the engraved text is floated in the middle of the flat portion, so it falls much closer to the top edge of the band than it does the bottom. Also, the baseline for the text is uneven. The word Japan sits a little higher on the band than the word Platinum. I think it’s a little sloppy.
And finally, we come to the simple, but elegant nib. If you’ve ever used a Platinum fountain pen, you already know the nibs are pretty special. Most of the hoopla is focused on their gold nibs, but I’ve found their steel nibs to be just as capable (I also have a couple Preppy models, and they have fantastic nibs for being $4 pens). Platinum’s nibs definitely have their own style. They’re a lot flatter than the nibs from most other brands, with shoulders that are folded down more sharply around the feed. Being that it’s gold plated, it looks just like the 3776 Century’s nib (albeit without the karat marker). Platinum dispenses with the fancy scrollwork, instead using a double line that runs up the edges of the tines, with a little electric-looking wave shape at the slit. Below the breather hole, it has #3776, followed by the company’s “P” logo, and finishing up with a couple Japanese characters, which I assume indicate the nib grade (extra fine in this case).
Build Quality (5/5):
This pen is superb. It’s very light and at first glance, looks like it’s made from plain, black plastic. But the cap and barrel are made from a durable and well polished resin. In fact, I’ve been using this pen at work for several months and it’s still in beautiful shape. The only think I can really complain about is the engraving on the cap band which I already mentioned. The text isn’t vertically centered and the engraving looks cheap, although this clearly has no effect on the writing experience.
The cap, barrel, and section threads marry up perfectly, so screwing/unscrewing the parts is smooth and quiet.
One thing I love about Platinum is the converter they use in their pens. It’s got a decent ink capacity, a nice, wide opening that allows for great air/ink interchange, and it fits super snugly in the section.
The 3776 Balance Maestro does not come with the usual Slip & Seal mechanism found in many other Platinum pens to prevent the nibs from drying out (come on, Platinum, even the $4 Preppy comes with that!). For me, the nib tends to dry out a bit quicker than I’d like…around 30 seconds or so. Whether or not this is due to the absence of the slip & seal piece, I’m not sure.
The clip is very firm and tight, without being too hard to lift. It’s going to hold the pen in place just fine for your lunchtime cartwheel routine in the office, but won’t rip your fingernail off in the process.
In the few months I used this pen at work, every time I uncapped it and put the nib to paper, it wrote. Every time. It does, however, dry out sooner than I’d expect after being left uncapped for a bit. If I leave it sit for 30 seconds or longer, it will hard start. It starts writing pretty quickly, though, so I never have to spend much time coaxing it to write.
It’s a smaller pen with a smooth resin section that’s not very big around. While I don’t find it slippery, the combination of a smaller diameter and smooth grip surface leads me to grip the pen a little tighter than I’d like, so I’ll get the occasional hand cramp.
But the pen is super light and posts securely. When posted, the balance of the pen does shift rearward a little. But because it’s so light, it never feels out of balance.
Writing Experience (4.5/5):
I fell in love with this pen the second I took it to work and started writing with it. The line it puts down is beautiful: it’s extremely fine and consistent, but still fairly wet. Overall, it’s comfortable to write with and it’s light enough to use for long writing sessions without causing fatigue. This pen never skips, and only hard starts if I leave it uncapped for 30 seconds or longer.
And for as fine a line as it writes, the nib is extremely smooth — and it came that way right out of the box. This has been a fantastic pen for using at work. The ink flows very well and lasts a long time before needing to be refilled. I will say, though, that the nib will occasionally trap dust and/or paper fibers between the tines, so you may need to floss it every once in a while.
This pen typically retails for anywhere in the $50 to $75 range. Being that you can get a Platinum 3776 Century with a 14k gold nib for around $75 (straight from Japan), I don’t think this version is worth spending more than $50 on. The nib is still phenomenal, but if you’re going to spend $75, you might as well just get the nicer 3776 Century.
At $45 or $50, though, this pen is a solid value
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 24/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Smooth writer for an extra fine||Dries out after 30 seconds uncapped|
|Light and comfortable to use||Cheap-looking cap band|
|Beautifully fine and consistent line||No Slip & Seal mechanism|
To be honest, I’d absolutely recommend the 3776 Century over the 3776 Balance Maestro any day and to every person. You can get the Century for the street price of the Balance Maestro, so why wouldn’t you go for the real deal? But looking at this pen on its own, it’s still a fabulous writer and would make a nice addition to your collection. Don’t spend $75 on it, though. If you can find it for $45 or under, then it’s worth a look. If you can’t find it that low, go for the Century.