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The Rotring 600 was first released in 1989. Its design can be traced back to the preceding Rotring 500 series, which debut in 1985 with burgundy plastic barrels and metal knurled grips. The Rotring 500 is contemporary with the almost identical Rapidomatic series by Koh-I-Noor USA, which was bought over by Rotring in 1985. The Rapidomatic series of 'fine lead mechanical pencils' was a refinement from Koh-I-Noor's Select-O-Matic II 2.0mm leadholder, which is itself a refinement of the company's Select-O-Matic 5617 (1955–1984), which featured a hexagonal metal body, knurled grip and patented lead hardness indicator in the push button. The first version of the Rotring 500 did not have a 'red ring' around its lead indicator knob.
Rotring describes the 600 as their "entry into the upscale writing instrument market", "designed with a hexagonal barrel to prevent it from rolling on the architects drawing table. It is machined out of one piece of brass on a lathe, providing it with ample weight to ensure that the architect need not apply extra pressure when creating".
The Rotring 600 was originally made in Germany before production moved to Japan.
A late 1988 catalog lists the first version of Rotring 600 only in 0.5mm lead diameter. It was offered in silver or black color and featured a 'thin' red ring around the lead indicator knob. The familiar 'thick' red ring was only introduced in 1990.
- 1989 Entry Rotring Heritage