Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!

by Steve on October 11, 2011

Sometimes something good comes out of an unpleasant surprise.

Yesterday I filled a Moleskine large squared notebook, and opened up the spare I’d been carrying. I opened the book and realized something was wrong. The grid lines were really thick and dark. Not the unobtrusive light gray they used to be, but a very dark gray that will compete with most of the pens I use, and would overwhelm a pencil. See the picture below (the new style is on top, old style is on the bottom):

IMG_3105.JPG

Yikes!

I filled out a quality control form at Moleskine and have requested a replacement. We’ll see what happens. Ever since Moleskine moved their production to China [Actually, they didn't. See below.] every book is a little different than the previous one. The cover feels different, or the binding is tight, or it smells funny, or something. That they added QC stickers to the books so they can track them suggests they know they have quality control issues.

With no new notebooks to continue my journalling, and feeling a little burnt by Moleskine, I went looking for an alternative. While I was looking I found Leuchtturm1917 on the Fountain Pen Network.

I remember the first time I saw a Moleskine notebook. It was in 2001 in the Atlanta airport, and there was a little store in the middle that sold pens and paper. I bought a few of the pocket size and was so impressed with them I almost couldn’t write in them. The design, the placeholder, band, pocket and the rest that we now all take for granted were not very common then and it seemed so incredibly high quality. With this change in the ruling I decided to try something new and ordered the Leuchtturm1917.

I have the same feeling about the Leuchtturm1917 that I had with my first Moleskine. It’s everything a Moleskine is and more. It has a nicer ribbon, is available in dot ruling (in the same 5mm spacing as the Moleskine grid) as well as normal and grid ruling. It has page numbers, and even a table of contents. I’m not crazy about the eight detachable sheets in the back, but they may come in handy. The book is slightly larger – 15mm wider. Another nice touch is that it DOESN’T assume you will offer a reward for the book. It even comes with stickers to label the book with.

The Moleskine has 240 pages, where the Leuchtturm has 249 numbered pages. The perforations start on page 235, so 234 pages are not perforated and that’s not counting the table of contents. The Leuchtturm has 38 writing lines per page, versus 40 on the Moleskine. The Leuchtturm is about 15mm wider on each page than the Moleskine, which means the Leuchtturm has about 1,289 meters of writing lines on non-perfed pages, the Moleskine has 1,248. The Leuchtturm has an extra un-numbered page at each end of the book, that joins the cover to the body of the book. In the Moleskine these are counted in the 240, but they are hard to write on because they’re glued to the cover pages. So the Leuchtturm not only has more space but it’s all normal pages.

The registration of the ruling on the page is very consistent on the one I have, which is another area where Moleskine is now falling short – see the comparison of old and new Moleskine grid below. On the new Moleskine on top you can see the ruling jumps all over, where the old style on the bottom has nice consistent lines.

IMG_3110.JPG

Last but not least the Leuchtturm1917 is about the same price on Amazon – about forty cents more. The Leuchtturm1917 is better in every way, with negligible additional cost.

So I discovered Moleskine’s quality had taken another slip downward, and in the process found a replacement that is better than the original. Hello Leuchtturm1917, goodbye Moleskine!

[Update 10/11/2011 - I received a great email from the folks at Kikkerland Design, who brought Moleskines into the US back in 1999. It turns out the Moleskines were always made in China, so they never moved their production there. I know I'm not the only person to think they had, and I'm not sure how it got started, but I felt it important to correct it. I do know their quality/consistency has slipped over the years.

The Leuchtturm1917 is made in Taiwan, which is arguably a better environment than China. However, I'd be willing to pay a few dollars more for one made here. Crane's paper, 100% cotton, in about 18lb grade, with the Leuchtturm design...maybe a joint venture...]

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Henry Patterson October 17, 2011 at 9:06 am

I also switched from Moleskine squared to the Leuchtturm1917 this summer, although I did explore the WhiteLines notebooks as well but found the gray backgound too dark for my liking. The leuchtturm1917 have turned out to be a great purchase and my favorite for work and personal journals.

Reply

Steve October 17, 2011 at 10:03 am

I too bought a small Whitelines book, but I found it stiff and dark. Really, the binding was more the problem than the background.

The more I use the dots, the more I love them.

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Richard October 17, 2011 at 11:45 am

I too, have given up and Moleskine. I have gone to the Rhodia Webbie in the dot grid. The paper is absolutely the best, and the more I use them, the more I like them. They have become my notebook of choice.

Reply

Steve October 17, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Richard,

Thanks for commenting! I’ll have to try one of those books!

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david bogie January 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I recently acquired a Leucht. 5×8 daily planner. It’s a complicated experiment, attempting to replace my 20 years of Franklin dayplanner addiction. Observations are mostly con because that’s what I am aware of at the moment:
1. The time reference is military/Zulu/Euro in hundreds of hours. Not a problem for me, that’s how I think.
2. the time blocks are hours but they really need to be in 30-minute blocks. A simple gray line that bisects each hour would be sufficient.
3. the ink is a light gray and is invisible in a dimly lit conference room.
4. There is no to-do list area and the tiny notes area is unlined.
5. A simple vertical light gray line bisecting the entire page would provide a useful notes area. I usually draw one in pencil.
6. The paper does not bleed or feather much but is nearly transparent making my fountain pens almost useless. Even pencil shows through.
7. Saturday and Sunday are squished onto a single page. A problem if your life is not nailed to a conventional week.
8. The reference weeks start on Monday, as is the European tradition. It takes a bit of adjustment visually.
9. The fluffy stuff that is included to fill out the remaining signature pages is unusually formatted. Perhaps if you are of Germanic stock it will be more familiar. For me, the pages would be more valuable if simply lined.

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Steve January 7, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the comment! I think nearly anything that you use to replace a 20-year habit is going to take some getting used to. I used a Daytimer for short period, but since my appointments have been mostly in Outlook I use planners only for record notes on a few things.

What made you want to switch?

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Alette December 3, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Nice post. It is very good to see that Leuchtturm is getting more attention these days in the Moleskine hype!

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Mono January 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm

No no nononono

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Muriel February 11, 2013 at 12:16 pm

I’ve give up on Moleskine for a while now. Leuchtturm1917 is a lot better, especially for fountain pen users. Their pages don’t bleed. In addition, they have a few advantages (and no disadvantages!) over the Moleskine:
1. better paper
2. pages are numbered
3. Includes labels for spin and front cover to easily label these books
4. Has dotted version which Moleskine doesn’t
5. cheaper in price than Moleskine!
6. includes several content pages

What’s not to love? I can’t think of how else these books can be improved. They’re just fantastic!

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Muriel February 11, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I’ll add that my favourite versions are the squared lines (graph paper) and dotted versions.

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Ann Foley March 15, 2013 at 10:07 am

Thanks for the tip – can’t wait to try the Leuchtturm1917!

BTW, your blog is lovely!

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John Henry Müller May 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I recently went to an art store looking for a quality notebook (thinking I would get a Moleskine) but walked out with the Leuchtturm1917 for the same reasons. Great post.

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Mattheous August 21, 2013 at 11:31 am

The Picadilly notebook website says it requires a password to access it…Any idea why? And what the info you have to type in is?

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Steve August 22, 2013 at 5:56 am

Hi Mattheous,

As I recall, Piccadilly used to be sold by Borders stores in the US. Of course Border is out of business, so I’m not sure where that leaves Piccadilly. Piccadilly wasn’t a direct to consumer company, so I don’t think they ever had a website you could order directly from.

Reply

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