When the Blackwing is referred to by its full name, it usually reads like this: “The Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602”. For the vast majority of this pencil’s lifetime it was manufactured by Eberhard Faber, but there was a relatively brief period of time—from 1988 to 1994—when the Blackwing was produced by Faber-Castell.
This excerpt from the 1989-1990 Faber-Castell catalog looks like a collector’s wish-list: the Blackwing is in good company with the Mongol and Black Velvet. The overall look of the pencil is the same—graphite-gray lacquer, oblique logo, and extended ferrule—but “Eberhard Faber” has been replaced with “FaberCastell” and the imprint does not have the same metallic appearance found on previous versions.
In terms of marketing, the Blackwing remained positioned as a smooth-writing pencil. Faber-Castell described it in this manner:
Compare that description to this copy for the Blackwing ca. 1940:
Perhaps the most distinctive change was in the packaging. Colorful boxes and logos were replaced by stark, Helvetica-inspired compressed typography for the company name, a halftone image of the pencil, and a mono-chromatic spine.
This version in bright blue—which has a fleeting connection with older packaging—though it was eventually replaced by a less-inspired version in brown:
When the Eberhard Faber catalog changed hands again in 1994 this packaging style was retained, except for “FaberCastell” changing back to “Eberhard Faber”.
Knowing nothing of corporate turnover, my questions are probably naïve. But, when the brand changed hands in 1988 was it merely a change in company letterhead while the factories and employees remained the same? Or was it more dramatic, where entirely different plants began making the Blackwing 602 from scratch? The changes in appearance and packaging lead me to choose the latter, but at the same time it seems hard to believe Faber-Castell wouldn’t have acquired the plants along with the brand rights. Then again, I have no knowledge of how such things work, so it’s all speculation on my part.