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SIMPLEX - SIMPLEX EXCELSIOR a multifaceted brand

The chapter dedicated to Simplex pens ( vol. II pag. 70, 71), can now have some additions due to the discovery of a number of Simplex pens which were not known when the book was written.

The marketing of Simplex pens is connected with the activity of the Milan-based “ Penne e Pennini di Meda A.” company, located in Corso Magenta.

Simplex models were produced in a variety of styles, over a span of time of more than two decades. These pens were marketed by the Meda Company which had them manufactured on commission by various pen makers. This is the reason why it is correct to distinguish productive chapters for the Simplex brand as not all Simplex pens have the same origin.

An article written By Emilio Dolcini some 15 years ago, supported the theory of a productive connection between Omas and Simplex as if Simplex models had been manufactured by Omas on commission. This link is actually very difficult  to demonstrate; a large number of Simplex models do not show any similarity with Omas models at all. Only a few, very rare Duofold-style Simplex pens appear to have a kind of connection with Omas pens, especially for the finish of the cap ( greek key cap band), the ball-ended clip and the color of celluloids. A remarkable similarity actually exists between certain Simplex, Omas and the King models of the early 1930’s, suggesting a common productive origin.

Simplex models form the 1930s are also very similar to Columbus models of the same era, as many of these pens have clips, design, proportions and colors of celluloid which reply Columbus pens. The connection  between Simplex and the above mentioned brands will therefore need further investigation…

At the same time it is also true that earlier Simplex pens ( safeties in black or mottled hard rubber) are reminiscent of pens coming from the Turin area. The same can be said for Simplex nibs, whose shape and vent hole recall nibs typical of the same area. A catalogue of the “Unione Cooperative “ from the 1920’s, includes Simplex pens among Aurora’s products.

The best and most qualitative Simplex models were produced in the 1930’s. High quality celluloids were used and  for a line of Simplex Excelsior models a vacumatic–like filling system was adopted along with a very refined design with decorative barrel rings. Their style, design and construction are quite unique and is reminiscent of  certain Turin-based productions (SAFIS, for instance).

Models from the 40s are totally different; although they retain a good/high quality style and show the intent to follow stylistic guidelines (shape of clips and finish), they sometimes diverge from standards with lower quality celluloids and cheaper trims. This partial fall in style and quality is likely to be due to the need to cut expenses and have more commercial models to meet the needs of a less wealthy market.

These later models are certainly connected to Turin-based pen makers. Certain details suggest a connection with SAFIS, which sometimes is very evident while in other cases is uncertain.

Stepped cap tops, typical of models from the late 40s express lower quality and a different productive origin which is likely to be in Settimo Torinese.

The typical features of Simplex models is the flat clip with diamond-shaped end with/without the Simplex imprint. Simplex pens were produced as button fillers, lever fillers and vacumatic-like fillers mainly in medium and senior size in many beautiful color combinations. All models from the 1930’s/1940’s are marked “Simplex Excelsior”. Nibs are “585” (14 ct) gold, have a drop shaped vent hole and are marked “Simplex”.

The analysis of Simplex models with gold filled overlays leads instead to Milan. Simplex models sport in fact cap tops and clips which are identical to Europa pens. Like Europa models, Simplex pens can be found with two types of clips:

  1. Roller clip with floral decoration
  2. Flat, with lined outlay, diamond shaped clips

It is more than evident that these pens can have the same productive origin and express the same high quality standards of production.

In the following pictures, Simplex button filler and Simplex safety filler with typical Europa roller clip and a few examples of Europa safety pens with the diamond-shaped flat clips, very very similar to the clip used on many celluloid Simplex models.

Europa safety pens with roller clip

The detail of the clip may be irrelevant, as these components could be bought in bulk by various distributors.

A connection with the best Milan overlay worksop must however have existed as Simpex pens with elaborate overlays, very similar to Waterman's are also known as in the pen in this picture.

In the following pictures a couple of Europa pens where you can see the similarity of the diamond shaped clip with Simplex pens.

Credits: Luigi Maccagli, Mario Pinelli, Paolo Mijno.