The Invicta. It has the most beautiful segment ever made, and a sharp and sophisticated design in its branding that is almost iconic. This is a machine that has an art-deco flair that has only been surpassed by the better known Olivetti Studio 42.
But none of that seemed to stop this machine coming dangerously close to losing its life.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday here in Melbourne, and it was too nice a day to spend inside looking at a flat screen or piece of paper. I’d been working for the previous 6 days and was mindful that I was about to do another 6, so I just wanted a small but simple outing. So I decided to head down to the colourful suburb of Fitzroy for a bit of a shop and stroll.
So I bailed miss Jane into the car and headed over. The area is well known for its more ‘alternative’ culture, with plenty of cafes and retail outlets that accommodate broad tastes. The area also has lots of interesting art and performance spaces. It just feels like the kind of place you could happily whip out a typewriter and start typing on the street and not seem out of place.
I walked past a vintage clothing shop that advertised that it also had ‘bric-a-brac’. SoI stuck my head through the door to bit of a look and I almost instantly spotted something familiar – the look of a glass and chrome keyboard, and the black crinkle paint of a particular vintage. I couldn’t see the paper table, the segment, or even the line-space lever; just the keyboard and part of the front cover plates. But at a distance I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking at. “Is that…. and Invicta”? I thought to myself.
I didn’t actually enter the shop. Instead I just walked on, thinking to myself that I didn’t need another typewriter. No thank you! We have enough. But as we returned down the other side of the street Miss Jane asked to cross back so she could go to an ATM to get some cash. Naturally, the ATM was right next to the shop that I had spotted that machine in.
“it can’t be an Invicta” I said to myself. “It’ll just the Olivetti branded version of the machine”. This reasoning was poor, as I realised that even if it was an Olivetti a machine of that vintage would still be interesting. So I went in and quickly discovered that I had guessed right. It was an Invicta. Worse, the price was reasonable. It was at the upper end of Reasonable, but still reasonable.
I struggled to put the case’s top cover back on, so I took it to the counter and started talking to the shop keeper. One of the feed rollers dropped out of the machine as I picked it up. I looked at the carriage and saw all the other rollers were still in it, and it was going to just be a simple repair to get the loose one back into place to stay.
“Oh, Have you seen the jewellery that people make out of the keys” the shop keeper said excitedly. “I thought I’d be able to sell this to someone that wanted to….”.
I groaned and said “Yeah, It’s pretty sad”, and she stopped what she was saying in mid sentence.
I HAD to get this typewriter out of this place. There was no way I could leave it here to court key-choppers. It was even priced accordingly for key choppers to buy.
“Oh yeah, imagine ruining such a machine! They are so beautiful”! She said as she back-tracked badly. She set about to find a way to get the case to close properly, and like myself was unsuccessful. Funds were exchanged and we parted company politely, but I felt that she was happy to see the back of me after that awkward conversation.
I took the machine home and immediately got to work cleaning it up. Jane pointed to something at the back of the typewriter, and I stuck my finger under the cover plates to find the two original spool covers jammed there. I popped the roller back in and the covers on and Voila! I had a 100% complete little Invicta. Just beautiful.
For those that don’t know, this machine is based on the Olivetti MP and mechanically it is highly similar. Invicta was a separate company to Olivetti once, however Olivetti bought shares in the company at one stage, at which point Invicta reportedly entered into a partnership with Olivetti, and as such began producing variants on the Olivetti design.
The cover plates however are made of quite a soft Aluminium, which was slightly dented on this machine, and the control options are far from intuitive. But that could also be said of most other portables available at the time.
So…. This is an Olivetti that wasn’t made by Olivetti. Right? Which makes this machine not an Olivetti, but pretty much the same thing as an Olivetti.
Okay. My head hurts. And yours would too if you tried to get your head around the history of this company – of which there seems to be surprisingly scarce information available. Oh, and don’t even bother trying to look up the serial numbers.
What I can say for sure is that this machine is very easy on the eye – as you’d expect Italian design to be. This is one of the great things about living in Melbourne.. While it is often hard to find obscure brand name typewriters in Australia, the sudden influx we’d enjoyed of Italians into the country after the Second World War means that finding Italian made stuff like this is surprisingly common. The Italians it seems are quite enthusiastic about bringing much from their homeland to their new home.
I’m not sure if this machine has a permanent place in my collection in the future, but this machine has the looks to charm its way into anyone’s home or heart. Sure… it is a bit battered and worn in some places – but It types surprisingly well for an Olivetti design, and it runs smoothly and purposefully. What more could you want?!