Retro 51 Tornado Rollerball Review

Retro 51 is a brand that I was aware of quite early in my pen addiction, but didn’t know quite enough to pull the trigger. Until recently that is. This is because they are rollerballs, and for the longest time I considered myself to be “graduated” to fountain pens, so I never picked one up. 

I got really close to buying my first one when I was in New York in 2015 when I had the privilege to visit The Fountain Pen Hospital. The “Homerun” edition was just launched and was available, but I chose to go with the Copper Orange Lamy Al-Star instead (I know I should have got both). I am regretting to this day that I didn’t buy this pen since the secondary market for it is quite higher than when it first came out. I know I’ve been doing this a lot, but if anyone knows where I can buy this pen for the original price, it would be greatly appreciated! 

My first taste of using a Retro 51 was when I received on in the Pen Addict Slack Christmas Gift Exchange a few years ago. My match sent me a gorgeous matte black one that has been a staple on my desk at work ever since. As you can see by the wear and tear, I use this pen quite a bit. Unfortunately, I have temporarily misplaced this pen, probably in a notebook somewhere that I’ve used once, so I won’t be able to offer any pictures. After receiving this, I paid a little bit more attention to new releases, but nothing jumped out as a “need to have”, so I never bought another. That was until I received an email from The Pen Addict. 


Pen Addict Retro 51 

Brad did a little collaborated with Retro 51 to release a custom designed “Pen Addict” Retro 51. This caught my attention right away. I went to the shop, seen the orange & gun metal, and before I knew it there was a sweet looking pen on the way, and boy was I ever happy I made that purchase. 

One thing that didn’t really cross my mind when I bought this pen was the fact that it was a limited edition and that it may sell out fast. Well they sold out in about an hour if I remember correctly, so I would have missed out if I wasn’t trigger happy. I ended up with #96/300 if any of you were wondering, and I hope more hit the market in the future so those of you who missed it can still pick up this beauty. 

The part that jumps out the most about this pen is the nice dark metallic orange that fits “The Pen Addict” brand. The gun metal accents were a perfect choice and adds so much character to the overall aesthetic. To top it all off, the finial of the pen sports “The Pen Addict” logo! How neat is that! This is a pen that will never leave my collection and will always be in the rotation. 


Coffee Retro 51 

My most recent Retro 51 is an exclusive from Goldspot Pens, the Coffee Tornado. This is just yet another example of the great designs that Retro 51 can create. Since I am a coffee guy, I was immediately drawn to this pen. The brass accents, cream colour, and of course all things coffee all over the pen. Some might think the design is a little bit too much, and I admittedly thought the same at first, but I have grown to like it. The part that only jumped out at me when I received the pen was the fascinating texture on the barrel. It is acid etched to make it feel similar to those textured coffee cups that some coffee shops use. An absolute joy to use! 


The Pen 

Now that you’ve seen a few of the different editions Retro 51 makes, the question becomes “what is so special about these rollerballs”? I already mentioned that I didn’t get into them until after I was already deeply entrenched in fountain pens. These are rollerballs, so why bother? Well there are a few reasons that made me give them a go. 1) Sometime a fountain pen doesn’t cut it, so you need something else. These are some of the best writing rollerballs out there, so why not use the best? 2) The style is perfect and you have so many different options, so I have no doubt that you will find one you like. 

The basis behind the Retro 51’s design is a sleek look, either fancy or subtle designs, and a twist mechanism to retract the tip. The downside to this retraction method is that it makes it difficult to be a one-handed pen like click pens are, but they are super fun to fidget without making a lot of noise. 

The shape of the pen is another feature that allows for a comfortable writing experience. I happen to agree with this and truly enjoy using it in meetings, which is primarily when I use it. If someone asks to use my pen, I won’t stress about trying to explain what a fountain pen or straight up saying no, and I can mess around with the twist mechanism if I have nothing to write down. 



This is another area that really sets the Retro 51 apart from the crowd. The reason why so many people love it (myself included) is because of the nice, thick, wet line that is laid down ever so smoothly. I have used both the black & blue refills and can confirm that both are great. The black is super black, and the blue is super blue (if that makes any sense at all). Basically they are very good at being a basic black & blue. 

The downside to being super dark and wet is that it has potential to bleed through different types of paper. It bleeds through Leuchtturm 1917 paper, which generally holds up to all of my fountain pen inks. It also bleeds through some of my beloved Field Notes. Somehow though, I have noticed that it actually works fairly decent with some cheap copy paper, so go figure. 

If you are looking to venture out into different coloured inks for your Retro 51, be ready to sacrifice performance. I tried a gel refill from Monteverde in brown, since it’s a coffee pen and all, and I was extremely disappointed. The writing experience was subpar and the brown was one of the ugliest versions of faded brown I’ve ever seen. That was the only colour I’ve tried, so I don’t want to paint them all with the same brush, but even though there are options for different colours, I would recommend sticking to the Retro 51 refills (Schmidt). You can even get a finer point if you want too! 



Now I must ask myself the same question as with the pencils, will all of these gorgeous Retro 51’s replace my fountain pens? Not a chance! I still love my fountain pens, so much that I cheated a bit when writing my draft by using my new Delta Journal for a few pages. I still have to try out the Retro 51 fountain pen, so maybe that will go on my shopping list. 

These pens will always be on my desk/in my bag/ around the house, with spare refills in my drawer. They are just so darn convenient! That, on top of choosing a design that really speaks to you, makes the Retro 51 Tornado the perfect “non-fountain pen” or starter pen for you. 


The Coffee Retro 51 was provided to me at a discount by Goldspot Pens. This did not sway my review one way or the other.

About Cody 42 Articles

Finance student, hockey player, baseball player, James Rollins and Steve Berry fan, and fountain pen enthusuast.