Learn more about Caran d’Ache, their history, and their anniversary celebrations; then enter our competition to win some special anniversary goodies!
To many of us, a good set of coloured pencils means a nice set in a tin, with a picture of Swiss Alpine scenery on the front. To get personal, I treasured my set when I was at school. They were great - nice quality pencils that can be transformed with a bit of water. Dampen the tip for a more solid line. Dampen the paper, and they behave differently again. Scribble a little, then use a wet brush, and they become a set of paints.
They were Caran d’Ache Prismalo pencils, and the mountain on the front was Mont Cervin, or as we commonly know it here, the Matterhorn. They were the first watercolour pencils in the world, and are still hugely popular with students and artists everywhere.
Artists everywhere also know Caran d’Ache for their Fixpencil clutch pencil, the Neocolor watercolour wax pencils, Technograph graphite pencils, and many others. The simple 849 metal ballpoint pen is a classic piece of Swiss design, and their fine writing range include some iconic designs in platinum, gold and jewels.
Caran d’Ache have been around for a long time - that’s part of the reason for this post - it’s their 100th anniversary this year. They are celebrating with a range of special anniversary edition products, which we’ll tell you all about soon, but first, a bit of history…
The company was founded in 1915, and was originally called “Fabrique Genevoise de Crayons”. The name ‘Caran d’Ache’ arrived in 1924. The Turkish name for a pencil comes from their term for graphite - black stone, or ‘kara tash’. This led to the Russian word for a pencil - ‘karandash’. In turn, that was taken by a French political cartoonist, who decided to use the name ‘Caran d’Ache’. The name was adopted by the Geneva-based pencil maker, and the brand was born.
While the logo has changed over the years, a common theme has been the long descenders on some of the letters - the diagonal of the ‘R’ in ‘Caran’ tends to extend down a long way, as does the right-side of the ‘A’ in ‘d’Ache’. Both of these little design features are from the original cartoonist of the same name - his signature included these same long strokes.
Another common feature of Caran d’Ache design has been a character called ‘Bonne-Mine’, a little pencil character with a top hat and arms. Bonne-Mine has featured in their packaging and advertising designs since 1920, and is proudly central to the 100th anniversary logos too.
Still going strong, Caran d’Ache is now led by Carole Hubscher, the current chairperson, who became the 4th generation of her family to run the company when she took the position in 2012.
In their innovative history, Caran d’Ache have developed many new products, and some have been significant world-firsts.
The Technograph is the classic Caran d’Ache pencil - yellow, with gold lettering, and like most Caran d’Ache products, it’s hexagonal. Their most longstanding product, the Technograph was introduced in the 1920s.
In 1929, The Fixpencil was the first clutch pencil to use the mechanism Caran d’Ache patented at the time, with a simple push-button to open the jaws to reposition the lead.
The Prismalo Aquarelle was the world’s first watercolour pencil - a completely new idea when it appeared in 1931. When dry, it was like any other coloured pencil, though better quality than most. Add water, though, and it became a set of watercolour paints. Add a picture of Mount Cervin to the box, and you had the set we knew and loved from our school days!
Neocolor wax oil pencils appeared in 1952, and in 1972 were changed to make them water-soluble.
The Ecridor was originally intended to be a luxurious alternative to the Fixpencil, but the addition of a ballpoint pen to the range in 1953 created a new elegant classic. The Ecridor range is still popular today, and while it has been refined a little over the years, still follows much the same design.
In 1969 the 849 followed the luxury Ecridor, but its simpler painted finish made it more of a pen for the people. Still made to Caran d’Ache’s high standards, with a sturdy metal barrel, the 849 could take on any colour, or any pattern, and be as bright or as plain as it needed to be. It became such an iconic Swiss product that it featured on a Swiss postage stamp, as part of a series celebrating classic Swiss design.
In 1970, the Madison gave Caran d’Ache their first fountain pen.
2010 saw the introduction of a new range of coloured pencils. The Luminance 6901 has the highest certification of lightfastness of any pencil - an important factor for artists whose work will hang on a wall, and not hide away in the darkness.
The Anniversary Collection - 100 Ans
To celebrate 100 years of existence, Caran d’Ache have issued a set of special edition products, in beautiful white card presentation boxes.
A nicely sturdy white card presentation case containing four Technograph pencils and a sharpener. The pencils themselves are the standard ones, but the packaging makes the set into something rather more unusual.
A very nice set - 25 Prismalo Aquarelle pencils, in a clever card box that doubles up as a stand. If you’re going to use the pencils, it’s perfect to keep them ready for use, while you’re sketching and colouring. If you want the set as an ornamental display, it will stand neatly on its own, showing off the rainbow of Prismalo pencils.
A special new design for this set, the anniversary edition of the Fixpencil has a shot-peened aluminium finish, for a different look and feel to the standard models. It has the addition of ruled scales in centimetres and inches.
It’s supplied in a sturdy card box, along with a tube of leads - one graphite B-grade lead, and coloured leads in red, blue, green and yellow.
We think this works really well as both a special edition for collectors, and a real day-to-day working clutch pencil - just a little more special than the standard Fixpencil models.
Like the Fixpencil, Caran d’Ache have gone to a bit of trouble to make this one special. The 849 has always been a ballpoint, but with its look clearly inspired by pencils. They’ve gone a bit further with this special edition. The body is a mix of different colours, with one colour on each side of the hexagon. Between each, and near the tip, is a creamy pale brown, to resemble cedar wood.
Next to the clip, the little pencil character, Bonne-Mine, is drawn on in white.
Again, like the Fixpencil, this can be a beautiful collectors’ edition to have on display; but it could also be a ballpoint pen you use every day - just what the 849 was always made to be.
The special edition Ecridor is patterned with a variation of the classic ‘chevron’ finish. Groups of chevrons alternate between running up and down the pen, on different faces of the hexagonal body.
The inside of the presentation card box is beautifully designed, too - the pen itself sits on a softly cushioned base, while the design on the inside of the lid is a large ‘HAPPY 100’ message, made up of chevrons, to echo the design on the pen; along with the Bonne-Mine character.
The competition is now closed.
The Prize: A special anniversary bag containing special anniversary goodies, including the set of Prismalo watercolour pencils detailed above, a couple of other anniversary pencils, and a special embossed notebook.
To Enter: Post a comment below, telling us what you think the most important event of 1915 was - apart from the beginning of Caran d’Ache, obviously!