Tombow Zoom L2: a quiet nod to design roots

When Tombow first revealed the new line up of designs for the revamp of its Zoom brand back in 2023, the model that got the most attention was the C1 with its floating effect ‘empty knock’.

The L1 rollerball was kinda meh, like a design exercise on contrast of materials and finishing, while L2 was sandwiched in between: a somewhat sleek and modern take that was strangely reminiscent of… something Tombow fans had seen before.

Tombow fans soon had an answer: the L2 seemed to combine the distinctive traits of two highly sought after vintage Zoom models from the mid 1990s – the fishlike ‘tail’ of the Oceanic and the graceful swoop of the Espana — both members of the quartet created by Spanish design collective ‘La Nave’.

I count myself amongst a lucky group who managed to obtain examples of the Zoom La Nave series without having to hock a kidney. Up close the similarities are fascinating.

The hard conical button on the L2 is perhaps a more prudent riff on the Oceanic’s rubberized form. None of the squishy fun but also none of the pain of inevitable disintegration.

Interestingly, the L2 also has a ‘soft touch’ coating, but Tombow assures us that this modern formulation is highly resistant to hydrolysis - the sticky muck that plagued so many trendy electronics goods in the early 2000s. My fingers are crossed: this coating is also applied on the well-received MONO Graph Fine.

The resemblance of the L2’s clip to that of the Espana is more subtle, but I think it shares the same feel of elegance with its gentle flaring from thick to thin. Perhaps we can think of this as the ‘executive’ version of the clip on the MONO Graph Fine?

Lastly, as is my habit to pick out a good pen to match a pencil’s design, the obvious candidate would be the Espana. But due to its delicate nature, I actually picked out another design…

The LAMY Spirit in matte black is a slightly more serious counterpart to the quiet flare of the L2. I had been thinking: “Why didn’t Tombow make an all-black 707?”… but you know what? The more playful nature of the 707 with its ball clip and mini bellows knock would feel stifled under an all-black scheme.

So, what do you think? Have you gotten an L2 for your collection?


Very cool. That’s probably the reason you chose the black one? The similarities were not obviously (at least not for me), but convincingly observable in the family shots with the Naves.

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Let’s just say I find the black L2 the most masculine option amongst the lineup.

I agree. The three pastel colors look like pencils that a girl way too cute to notice me would use. The silver one is quite boring. I do agree that the black one is the most attractive of the lineup. The white one is also quite nice.



Triangular shape (sort of) + body discontinuity (“step”) at the junction between tip and barrel, with comparatively slim point + not-removable clip + rubberi-ish coating = very very risky configuration, at least for me.

This pencil has so many dangerous features, that either could be the new big thing for me, or could be an absolute nightmare — if the balance tips towards the rear, it’s the end.

So I think I’ll pass on this one, possibly chasing an original España instead (which looks even stranger, but boy it is flamboyant in its choices of shape and form), and rather look for the Tombow Mono Graph Fine, which according to the opinions I read here, seems super-promising.

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do you like the haptics of the coating? I received my tombows today, and I am not sure about this point yet …

I think many of us have had our own problems with ‘soft touch’ coatings that went icky. So now the silky soft feeling of any such surface carries a premonition of the sorrow to come.

My own most recent episode of dread was with the Staedtler Hexagonal. Although mine has held up well due to the long interval between rotations, it has been documented that the coating can be rubbed off without much effort. I am not sure if this is ‘better’ than letting it get sticky after 3-5 years?

As for the L2. It feels nice. I think if it is used in a colder or less humid environment, it should be fine. Gotta check back in after a couple of years… unless someone has a humidity chamber and is willing to put an L2 through the wringer for science!

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I think if the L2 were to live out its life on an executive’s desk, the new coating will probably do just fine. Not having it subject to constant friction from removal from and reinsertion to a pen case etc. will leave it mostly pristine. But yes, the concern with durability of the coating is well founded. But life is short and I just wanted to experience this new thing…