With over 100 billion pens produced since 1950, the BIC Cristal is the most popular – or, at least, most common – pen in the world. It’s the king of the office supply closet and the original economy pen, manufactured and sold worldwide. The Cristal even made it into the Museum of Modern Art for being a classic example of efficient, industrial design. It’s inexpensive and available everywhere, but, in terms of performance, the Cristal is a mixed bag.
It’s a reliable pen that always writes when you pick it up, but the thin, plastic barrel becomes very uncomfortable to hold after writing more than a few sentences. For a ballpoint pen, the ink is nice and dark, but it’s also very sluggish. It often feels like writing with syrup. But for the price – a dozen pens for a couple bucks – it’s difficult to complain too much.
Whether you love it or hate it, the BIC Cristal is an icon that’s here to stay. It’s easy to find a better pen by pending a few extra bucks, but it’s impressive that BIC can deliver a functional product for such a low cost. The Cristal may never be my go-to pen, but it has my respect nevertheless.
- A history of the BIC Cristal, produced by BIC at the Cristal’s 60th anniversary. It’s an interesting read, especially if you want to see Salvador Dali holding a Cristal.
- A review at Scribomechanica summarizes the Cristal really well: you can do better with other pens, but that’s not the point. The point is that the Cristal is really inexpensive, yet reliable.
- The review at The Pen Addict is very positive towards the Cristal, with his primary complaint being the white-space within the lines of ink.