Monday, February 3, 2014

Rotring 300 versus Redcircle 300

I probably reported on my fascination with most thing Rotring before. Rotring, a German company that was bought up in 1998 and is now part of Sanford which also acquired Waterman and Parker, made very distinctive writing instruments. This included not just technical graphing pens, like Isographs, but also mechanical pencils and fountain pens, like the Rotring 600 and the Rotring Newton.

Sanford shut down the manufacture and sale of fountain pens and mechanical pencils soon after taking over. Some of the products re-appeared as Parker pens, like the last incarnation of the Newton which became the Parker Facet, and the Rotring Esprit which became the Parker Esprit. There also is some Parker version of the Rotring Executive. The Rotring Tikky became a Papermate whose latest incarnation is called the "Papermate Precision."

While Sanford's decision on fountain pens seems final, they decided last year to re-issue to the rest of the world the drafting pencils that were for some time only available in Japan, namely the 300, 500, 600, and 800. You can also buy a new version of the Tikky at pretty much the same price. It is available in a greater variety of colors, but you cannot buy it in as many places. They seem pretty much identical. The only difference is that the Precision is missing the red ring (but you can tell where it would go, and where they have affixed a ring that has the same color as the rest of the pencil).

I like the most the 600 series of pens, as well as the first generation Newton that looks very much like a 600, is often referred to as a 600, but isn't a 600 at all. Indeed, I have collected quite a number of them. But I also have some interest in the Rotring pencils.

Recently, I had occasion to compare the new Rotring 300 pencil with a pencil that looks very much like it, namely the redcircle 300 ("redcircle" is a literal translation of "Rotring"). On eBay they do not use "300" to refer to this mechanical pencil, but they clearly are copies of the Rotring 300. Perhaps someone will find a comparison of the original and the copy of interest. The barrel and the cap look exactly the same. In fact, I believe that they are the same. It's just that the quality of the redcircle is uneven. (The selector for the grade of the lead on one of mine was defective, for instance.) It appears to me that they are using "seconds" or "rejects" of the Rotring 300. This is not good. One count against the redcircle.

On the other hand, the internals seem rather different. The redring's mechanism is made of plastic, the Rotring's is, at least in part made of metal. Accordingly, the redcircle has no place for an eraser under the cap; the Rotring has an eraser. Second count against the redcircle. Perhaps this internal difference makes the redcircle for some less of a copy and more of a "variation on a theme," but I have my doubts.

The tip of the two pencil is also very different, whereas the Rotring has the familiar tip with a fixed drafting pencil tip, like so:

The redcircle has a retractable tip that makes it possible carry the pencil in a pocket without fear of being stabbed bit or damaging one's pockets, like so:

This is a count for the redcircle—at least in my book ... errr ... pocket.

Speaking of pockets, the redcircle costs about $5.99 or $9.99 for three from Hong Kong. The Rotring costs around $10.00, if bought in the U.S., and $6.99, if bought from a Japanese seller on eBay. Ultimately I think the original is a better deal (even though I like the tip on the redcircle much better).

Now, if only there were good copies of the 600 pen, then I would be really tempted. I would be even more tempted, if Parer were to make new 600s (even if I like the L-Tech very much)!


MAWH said...

I haven't thought about this in years, but pretty much ALL of my early graphics work was done with Rotring Isographs (0.35, 0.5, 0.7) and suddenly I'm missing them terribly.

Thanks for the nostalgic trigger. :-)

MK said...

The Isographs survived Sanford, though some people who seem to know complain about a drop in quality.

Michael Leddy said...

Levenger has some Rotring-like items.

I remember reading that pen people referred to the 600 fountain pen as The Terminator. A mighty pen it was.

Slotracer said...

There is a 600 knockoff by Redcircle. They are listed on ebay under mechanical pencil, and do not specifically mention Redcircle or 600 in the listing. You can recognize the listing by the photo. I own a Rotring 600 and just bought a Redcircle 600 (for $8.42 including shipping).

The pencil does have "Redcircle 600" marked on it. The Redcircle is not a Rotring, but it is not a bad pencil. It has the same look, weight, and feel as the Rotring.

Two issues: The lead indicator ring is a little loose and will not stay in the position you set it. The lead has a little spring to it (some people may like that, I am getting used to it).

I am using mine at work. If it gets lost or "borrowed" it won't break my heart like losing a Rotring would.

MK said...

I bought the redcircle 600 copy as well, and I share your sentiments. The lead indicator on mine seems absolutely frozen.

Some time ago I also bought a lea dholder (2mm) and a 0.7mm pencil which no longer seem available.

MK said...

The other sizes are still available on (Canada). I just saw them and had forgotten how eerily similar even the box look the original Rotring box.

But I am not sure that they are worth a buy at US $19.90.