ECHOING the design world's current love affair with the stylish Art Deco era, A. T. Cross launched the beautiful Townsend range of writing instruments, named after founder Alonzo Townsend Cross. America's oldest manufacturer of quality writing instruments, Cross is best known for its slim Century line that has been the company's core since 1946. However, designed for those who prefer a more robust writing instrument, the thicker Townsend range combines Cross' reputation for precision and sophisticated technology with a design that derives its inspiration from a rolled gold fountain pen Cross introduced in 1930. 'Architecture, fashion, design, everyone is harking back to the Art Deco era because it was a time of elegance, craftsmanship and romance,' Brian King, regional manager of A. T. Cross, said. 'The last two years have seen a growing preference for classic fountain pens in Europe and that trend has filtered through to Hong Kong. The flowing style allows the writer to better express his character. 'The modern fountain pen, with its free flow of ink to the nib, is especially good for writing Chinese characters and, with modern technology, messy leaking of the older fountain pens is no longer a problem.' The Townsend range features fountain, rolling-ball selectip and ball-point pens and pencils in seven different casings. These include 18-carat and 10-carat rolled gold; titanium; black, sienna and marbled-green lacquer; and medallist, a two-tone metal combination. The price ranges from $500 to $2,000 for the 18-carat, rolled-gold fountain pen. 'Hong Kong people are image-conscious. The variety of casings allows pens to be used not only as quality writing instruments but as fashion accessories,' Mr King said. If a pen can make a statement about a person's style, a desk set makes a bigger statement. 'Hong Kong is the biggest market for desk sets,' Mr King said. Single and double desk sets (featuring the pen and the pencil) come in a variety of bases, including marble, cherry, mahogany, onyx and walnut. They range in price from $850 to $2,100. The desk sets feature name plates for engraving. The pen, pencil and desk sets and an on-the-spot engraving service are available at the luxury department store Sogo, where A. T. Cross established a 200-square-foot boutique last November. Mr King said gifts made up 70 per cent of Cross sales and so presentation was important: the dark green and gold trim corporate colours helped complete a smart and striking package. Cross now used exclusive technology to scan customers' signatures by computer, then engraved them on to the writing instrument, he said. This was more personalised than simply engraving a name, he said.