After working for two legendary companies of the high-end fountain pen market, Montblanc and Montegrappa, he started a new project in Hungary and with his cousin he created his own brand offering premium pens. Etelburg’s modular pens equipped with digital accessories celebrate handwriting: with these pens, “writing just feels better”. We asked industrial designer Gábor Megyeri and his business partner, Péter Megyeri, the founders of the brand.
Etelburg is essentially a family business, but how did this story start? When did you decide that you wanted to launch a business together?
Péter Megyeri: Even though we lived far away from each other, we have had a good relationship from the very beginning and followed each other’s paths, even if the family’s bonds has gotten looser between our grandfather’s first and second marriage.
Gábor had a quickly evolving career during university and at the market-leaders of pen manufacturing as a designer—during that time, I was working my way up in the Telekom company group. We found ourselves in a very similar situation almost at the same time: while Gábor was pouring his ideas into the machine of the Italian company Montegrappa and was longing for something new amidst the incredibly intense design requirements, I got to a point where I wanted to try my knowledge obtained over twenty years in the profession on the “fresh” air, in the world of entrepreneurs.
After one or two years, we started thinking, planning and building a joint project together. At the end of 2015, I founded the company M and M Productions, hoping that we could create something together. Today, just like in the early days, Gábor is in charge of the artistic division, while I am responsible for the business part, in addition to managing the company. We even came up with a saying for this over the years: one of us is good at it, while the other is learning—this is true both ways.
Using Gábor’s professional past as a foundation, you’ve built your exclusive brand around writing and fountain pens. Where exactly does the name Etelburg come from?
Gábor Megyeri: I came across the Etelburg name in the course of researching back in 2007. The name is essentially an allusion to the castle of Buda, that is, the castle of the people of Attila, which appears in several forms and at several points over history. When Péter and I decided to launch a brand together, it was evident that we would name it Etelburg. In our experience, the name Etelburg can be understood and interpreted in every corner of the world: even though there are major differences in pronunciation, everyone can pronounce it in one way or another and this name represents the philosophy and love for our home country that lies beneath the brand. A common feature of all Etelburg products is that they are created out of Hungarian capital, using Hungarian intellectual capital and we also do every possible part of manufacturing here, in Hungary, by also paying great attention to sustainability.
Gábor graduated from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design as an industrial designer: that’s where you first got fascinated by the world of premium products, and later you sent a few fountain pen designs to Montblanc. How did the time spent here shape you? Why fountain pens?
G. M.: During my years spent at the university, my attention shifted towards the world of premium products unwittingly. I deliberately try to avoid the word “luxury,” as it was not this quality that fascinated me, rather my aversion towards mass production due to all the waste it generates senselessly. Over the time spent at Montblanc, I gained a lot of experience. In addition to getting acquainted with various materials and production technologies, I could also learn to perform complex tasks for which I had an entire semester back at the university under extreme time pressure, over just two-three weeks. I also developed the research, analysis and interpretation method during this time with which I can give intellectual content to products, thus increasing their value instead of using expensive and precious materials senselessly. To me, this is what differentiates premium products from luxury ones. The desire to have my own brand also formed here.
Montblanc’s primary products are fountain pens, but they also have many other products, I have designed countless of other accessories for them. In the course of my work, I designed a wide variety of products, but somehow fountain pens characterize me the most, yet it was not an aspiration of mine. Writing and pens are undoubtedly very important to me. I especially like the pens dedicated to various topics, with which we can convey exciting stories to the customers in an exciting “code language” based on symbols, which can be interpreted on an artistic level.
Etelburg’s repertoire includes modular pens sporting clean, modern shapes. In addition to the premium selection, what’s the goal and mission of the brand?
G. M.: According to Etelburg’s philosophy, we aspire to preserve the values of the past for the future, for its sustainability. One of such values is handwriting. Its importance is inevitable and is so important to us that I even dedicated my doctoral research to this topic. We want to create products, may it be writing instruments or others, that, in addition to serving the basic function and conforming to ergonomic requirements, also have an extended service life, which means that they are suitable for serving generations and their repairability is ensured. We achieve this by choosing suitable materials and by preserving the compatibility of our modular systems and their permanent development. In addition to the development of instruments, we also search for other ways of preserving handwriting, and to this end we are working on developments for not only this generation, but for the coming ones, too.
What makes a good fountain pen in your opinion and what makes Etelburg innovative or different than its competitors?
P. M.: Already in our first project, we boldly chose a durable material—almost as durable as steel—the weight of which, however, also competes with traditional pens. This material is called perunal, it is a type of aluminum used in the manufacturing of airplanes. For our r.feather fountain pen in our Rainbow product family, we made a custom ink called r.ink, a mobile application entitled r.app and r.pro, the prototype of our ink mixing machine designed as a flagship. Hopefully its patenting process will be completed soon. We always say that we are neither pen manufacturers, nor gadget manufacturers. We are unfolding our wings right on the border between the two large empires.
What novelties can we expect in the near future and what are your long-term goals?
G. M.: We are trying to keep our focus and implement our current projects. Currently we are working on r.feather‘s production optimization and we’ll soon start the production preparations of the r.pro color mixing equipment, too. The DPAF I. pen family was born as part of my doctoral research, in the framework of a successful co-founding project completed recently. With the help of processing background data we examine what other versions of this pen we’d like to create and we have started the preparation of the DPAF II. project, too. We have a lot of plans: in addition to pens, we’d like to expand our focus to more accessories and additional exciting products, but so that we can progress with these, we need to put our current projects on the finish line. We are continuously expanding our resources, but we have limited opportunities. This is a long process, but as we design our products to have a long service life, we also intend our company to be multi-generational, and we hope we can pass our family business to our children.
Portrait photos: László Sebestyén