Caran D’Ache 849

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I’ll be honest. I try hard to put performance at the top of my list, but everything now and then I come across a pen that makes me sacrifice a smidgen of performance because I find its design so compelling. I would put many of the Retro 51 pens in this group. The rollerball refills that come with Retro 51s are finicky for me, but a half-dozen or so of their more compelling designs have made their way into my collection. So too is it with the Caran D’Ache 849. It is not a perfect pen, but its compellingly simple design and variety of finishes makes the 849 a pen I actually use.

Let us start from the inside and work our way out. Caran D’Ache makes their own refills for the 849 called the Goliath. In a side-by-side comparison between the 849 Goliath and Parker Quink refills, the Quink writes a bit more smoothly while the Goliath blue is a more true blue compared to Quink’s purple-blue. Both refills are labelled as a medium point. If the Quink lays down a 1.0 mm line as indicated on the refill, then I would put the Goliath line at about 0.9 mm; it feels thinner even if just barely so. I do like the color of the Goliath blue refill more. I have not done so yet, but I plan to track down a Goliath refill with a broad point. With any luck, the broad point will give me the best of both worlds – a smoother ride and a color I prefer. Stay tuned.

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You unscrew the clicker or knock or plunger or whatever you call the thing you press to deploy the refill to install same. Importantly, the 849 will take any Parker-style refill but there is a small catch – literally. The end of the Goliath refill is flat while the end of the Quink refill has plastic grooves and fins. Both refills are designed to work best with their particular brand so it may take a try or two to get a Quink refill to set adequately and work appropriately with the clicker/knock/plunger/thingamabob of the 849. There can be a bit of a hitch/catch with a less than ideal installation of Parker-style refills. I typically get good results by setting the brass teeth of the clicker into the plastic grooves of the Quink refill, inserting the two pieces while holding the 849 upside down and screwing the clicker assembly until it stops. I have also found that good action of a Parker-style refill can come down to the spring. If you have a spring that works well in a Parker Jotter, try installing it in a 849 when using Parker-style refills. Ultimately, I find the click action of the 849 with Parker and Goliath refills to be indistinguishable. Compared to the tight “snap” of a Parker Jotter knock, the 849 click is softer. Deploying an 849 may not feel and sound as satisfying as the crack of a Jotter, but it also won’t annoy the heck out of co-workers as you play with your pen during an endless meeting.

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As you have read so far, the 849 experience is not perfect but now we get to the good stuff. The look and feel of the 849 is fantastic. The three 849s I have are among my favorite looking pens in the collection. The orange color on the one 849 may be the most orange thing in my entire house and the black labelling on the pen just pops off. The grey 849, technically called the 849 Original, has a very cool marble finish. The knock and clip of the Original are a matte grey color that compliments the pen body perfectly. Lastly, the multiple colors of the Caran D’Ache 100th Anniversary 849, along with its pencil-like design, makes it the most unique looking pen I own. The metal material and hexagonal shape give all the 849s heft and control that fits my hand nicely. Again, comparing the 849 to a Parker Jotter, the metal 849s are just a touch heavier in the hand and about 3 mm shorter than an older Jotter (the ones with brass threads).

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Starting at just under $20, standard issue 849s come in a rainbow of colors (matte, metallic, fluorescent). The 849 Original and the 100th Anniversary edition will run you about $10 and $25 more, respectively. I’ll freely admit there are better writing pens out there. After all, the 849s are just a ballpoint (some people consider that an insult – I don’t). That said, factor in the all metal construction, the cool design varieties and the flexibility of refill options, and the Caran D’Ache 849 scratches the same collecting itch and user experience as pens like the Parker Jotter and the Retro 51. In short, it works for me.

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4 thoughts on “Caran D’Ache 849

  1. You can use the Parker Jotter fitting with the Fisher Space Pen refills, as well, for people who like those. I had to use a utility knife to cut off some of the fitting’s top. If anyone decides to do that, just cut off a little bit until you are satisfied that the point recedes into the barrel far enough. I think it was around a mm or two that I cut off. I just wish Caran d’Ache would make a 0.5mm pencil. They have a comfortable, traditional grip and they are compact, as well.

    1. The Space Pen refills are a very close second to the Parker Quink refills for me. In fact, I use the Fisher green, red and purple refills in my green, red and purple colored Jotters. Good stuff.

  2. Hi,

    Im fairly new in the penworld but i got hooked during my vacation recently when i found a Zebra expandz in lightblue metallic. Since then ive gotten the zebra in red and white too altough i felt like it wasnt as smooth as i wouldve hoped, but maybe thats more because im a lefty rather than the pen itself?

    Now i started reading more about pencils since im starting to study again shortly and wanted to have some decent ones for taking notes, both mechanical and ballpoint. So ive gotten myself a pentel p205 which seems like a decent one to start off with. Im also considering the rotring 600, but i guess ill wait with that one until i get my p205 atleast. Couldnt wait with the 849 though, i just purchased the 849 100 year edition cause i got so taken with the looks of it, im almost considering getting the fluo orange too after seeing yours, the metallic yellow is also nice on the eyes, wish i could see them all in person tho!

    Which one of yours do you like best when it comes to looks? I really like the 100y edition since it is, as you say, unique. But its hard to tell how it actually looks through pictures and theres so few of them online to watch too, hope i wont get disappointed!

    Also i wonder if you tried the mechanical version of the 849 (believe its called 844?)

    Thanks for the review!

    1. Given that the shapes are identical, the best looking 849 is entirely a personal preference. If I had to pick, I’d say the 100th, but I dig the bright orange too.

      Yes, I have an 844 pencil. It’s great but I take the clip off mine so it doesn’t interfere with my hand as I rotate the pencil to evenly wear down the graphite.

      Thanks for reading.

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