The pen was born within the Bic© company in 1969, based on an idea developed by its founder, Marcel Bich. He wanted to “create an item that makes life easier for consumers”. His recipe: a compact, resistant, reliable and affordable mechanism. Bingo! Initially sold at a price of 2 francs ($0.37) when it was launched, it became a worldwide success and was first marketed in the United States in 1971.
"Change the ink colour without changing the pen”, went the slogan.
After the inkwell and the fountain pen, the Bic© four-colour pen made its appearance and became a must-have in students' pencil cases. Teachers hung it on their shirt pockets to keep it within reach and use the red ink to correct their students’ work.
Very light and fun with its characteristic click, this seemingly simple pen is in fact very complex, a real concentration of technology: very precise springs that allow the desired colour to be selected mechanically by retracting or extending a tip, so-called technical plastics that can withstand thousands of push-button activations and real know-how in ink design.
The 4-colour pen originally came in 2 versions: one with an orange body and a fine tip, the favourite of schoolchildren and students alike, the other with a blue body and a medium tip. Both models were fitted with a small solid ball on their upper part, representing the "Bic head" emblem of the brand. According to legend, it was used to operate the dials of old fashioned telephones. The solid ball is now pierced, so that a cord can be passed through it, allowing the pen to be worn around the neck - a feature that is particularly appreciated among nurses.
Since then, the range has expanded and there are now around thirty varieties of 4-colour Bic pens, including the "4 Fluorescent Colours" Bic launched in 2016, where green is replaced by fluorescent yellow ink, and the 2017 version comprising an integrated mechanical pencil instead of the green ink. In 2020, the mythical Bic© was given a limited-edition makeover to celebrate its 50th anniversary, along with vivid new colours: ultramarine blue, deep purple, girly pink and acid green.
Despite the appearance of these modernised and revisited versions, the 2 original models - orange and blue - are still manufactured and remain the favourite models among their fans.
One thing is certain, the manufacturing process of the "4-colour" pen has remained the same for 50 years. Classified as an industrial secret, its technology is jealously guarded and few people have been able to enter the factory in the Paris region where it has been manufactured since its beginnings.
A tireless and always-trendy pen
The 4-colour pen is appreciated as much for its look, its simplicity and its unique functionality as for its resistance! Each model is designed to write 8 kms of lines, i.e. 2 kms per cartridge. Over time, the colour cartridges have even become refillable.
The Bic© pen is such a commonplace object, and the brand is so well-known, that many forget that it is one of the best-known French brands in the world.
200,000 Bic© four-colour pens are produced every day and sold in 160 countries.