The name Namiki will be familiar to only a few connoisseurs, whereas another name, Pilot, the brand producer of writing instruments, is well-known to many. One and the same Japanese company has been producing not just more common pens but also the most exclusive mountain pens with the brand name Namiki for more than 100 years.
In 1918 Ryosuke Namiki and Matsuo Wada founded the Namiki Manufacturing Company, a name which they subsequently replaced with the better-known Pilot. Apart from revolutionizing its industry by using iridium pen nibs, Namiki made itself famous all over the world with the processing it employed, called maki-e, used for the first time in the manufacturing of pens.
In 1925 Namiki patented a procedure to protect pens from scratching and fading, namely the application of ‘laccanite’, since until that time pens had been produced using ebonite, a material which falls easy prey to oxidation. The application of laccanite overcame these problems and from then on the surfaces of the pens could be beautifully decorated with the maki-e technique; this enabled designs to be obtained by adding metal-based powder of various colours during enamelling. Needless to say, the technique, which had been developed around the IX century, was exceedingly complex and refined.
In 1926 Namiki opened branches in London, New York and Singapore. But it was in 1930 that the decisive meeting took place, with Alfred H. Dunhill, already a name of great significance in the field of luxury goods. Dunhill had the exclusive rights worldwide to the distribution of pens outside Japan, so Dunhill-Namiki Made in Japan was founded and the pens were sold all over Europe and the United States. The products manufactured in that period are probably amongst the most keenly sought-after and precious models, on account of their extraordinary quality and artistic value.
Nowadays Namiki is Pilot’s luxury pen division and continues to maintain unchanged the production of these extraordinary items. Namiki pens are bid for in auctions all over the world at very high prices, such as in 2015, when Bonham’s put up for auction, in a collection entitled Fine Writing Instruments, a masterly pair of Dunhill-Namiki pens enamelled with animal motifs for an amount of €280,000.
Tokyo, October 2016