In a world of annual updates and constant change, it's reassuring to know that some tings are made to last. Four decades after it was first revealed, the LAMY safari fountain pen is still going strong, essentially unchanged after so many years. That kind of lasting design is worth celebrating, so LAMY's Marco Achenbach reflected the safari's origins, what made it stand out, and how it was almost discontinued before it could become the icon we know today.
The 2017 safari Special Edition Petrol
Before the safari, pen makers just didn't offer quality fountain pens for high school and uni students – once you outgrew pens from the kids' section, you were stuck with cheap, almost disposable pens, or expensive and delicate options that wouldn't hold up so well in your pencil case. "All the existing fountain pens for students were derivations versions of a fountain pen for adults," says Marco, "so our aim was to develop a pen for older students" – one that was ready to meet the rigorous demands of student life.
LAMY enlisted the Mannheim Development Group to develop a durable, affordable fountain pen that could be tossed in a bag and live to tell the tale. They came up with the codename OUTDOOR, reflecting both the rugged construction that such a pen would require, and the adventurous spirit it would embody.
A durable fountain pen might not seem like a revolutionary idea today, but 40-plus years ago, that idea flew in the face of accepted fountain pen logic. When asked what set the safari apart from other fountain pens at the time, Marco replied simply: "Everything." Just about every aspect of Wolfgang Fabian's final design, from the all-plastic body to the shape of the grip right down to the clip and the ink window, broke new ground in fountain pen construction.
Made from ABS plastic (the same material used to make Lego bricks), the safari delivered on the promise of a hard-wearing fountain pen that could survive months on end inside a pencil case. Lightweight and impact-resistant, with a comfortable triangular grip that remains unchanged to this day, the safari enjoys an iconic status, but that wasn't always the case.
2018's Special Edition, the safari All Black
"LAMY thought about discontinuing the safari..."
When LAMY first launched the safari in 1980, it initially struggled to find an audience. The first three years were tough, and Marco told us, "LAMY thought about discontinuing the LAMY safari because of its poor performance. Thank god, they decided to give it one last chance."
That last chance came in the form of a new colour – a glossy white finish, which gave the safari a bright, modern feel in contrast to the original matte finish. The effect was almost instantaneous, with the glossy white finish single-handedly saving the icon of design we know and love.
Flash-forward almost 40 years, and the safari is still one of the world's most popular fountain pens, reliably topping sales charts with a design that remains essentially the same after all those years. Even more impressive, some of those original safari fountain pens are still in use, with the same grace and confidence in 2021 that they had in the early 80s. It's a fitting tribute to the impeccable work of designer Wolfgang Fabian that the safari endures, both as a pen and as an icon.
The soft colour of 2019's Special Edition, the safari Pastel
Celebrating safari's 40th anniversary
To mark this milestone, LAMY has reissued the safari in the original Savannah Green and Terra Red finishes of the 1980 launch, along with matching ballpoint and rollerball pens. Score yourself a piece of history with LAMY's safari Anniversary Special Edition, but be quick – unlike the pens themselves, this Special Edition won't last long.