We tend to take for granted some of the amazing and truly iconic products that we pick up everyday, use and often throw away in disgust when we realise they are not the genuine article – because they are not working properly…..One such item is the Bic Cristal ballpoint pen. Unless the ink in the reservoir is almost exhausted – which you can tell by the lack of colour in the plastic tube leading to the nib – or the pen is held nib up to write, then in my experience the Bic Cristal will never fail.
It doesn’t shout classic design from the roof-tops – yet it its. It doesn’t say that it’s the best selling pen in the World – which it is!
During the Second World War, Marcel Bich had seen a ballpoint pen made in Argentina by Hungarian brothers László and, his chemist brother, Gyorgy Bíró – which they had first announced in 1931. Their big break came in 1943, when the British Air Force, that had sought a pen to use at altitude, purchased 30,000 of them.
Bich’s (later to change his name to “Bic”) design team developed the Bic Cristal after he invested in Swiss technology capable of cutting and shaping metal down to a 1mm sphere which allowed ink to flow freely.
Bich developed a viscous ink that neither leaked nor clogged and, under a licence from Bíró, launched the Bic Cristal in December 1950 – a huge world-wide success.
When the first ballpoint pens hit the market in the late 1940’s they would have sold for around $10 (circa $100 today) but Bich’s commercial acumen and innovation drove the price down. When the Bic Cristal was launched in the US in 1959, the price was down to 19 cents a pen – similar today’s price.
The Bic Cristal is the best selling pen in the World; the 100 billionth was sold in September 2005 roughly one every 57 seconds for 55 years!
An unparalleled workhorse. Just how many students approaching the exam season can show you on the second finger of their left or right hands a groove made in the skin by the unmistakeable shape of a Bic Cristal pen!
Photo from BicWorld.com