I was on the hunt for a nice Pilot Vanishing Point but my local brick & mortar (Appelboom) doesn't carry Pilot. I mentioned this while picking up some ink for a colleague and was asked if I'd considered the Dialog 3. Well, no, I hadn't. It's considerably more expensive, it's massive, it lacks fancy colour schemes and most of all... it's a Lamy... Sure, I admire the ABC but otherwise no thanks, I'll pass. Lamy and I, we're just not meant to be. Or so I thought... because I fell like a brick for the design, the materials, the amazing engineering, the retractable nib mechanism and the EF nib. When Joost offered me a really good price, that clinched it.
"Perfection is not attained when there is nothing more to add. It is attained when there is nothing more to remove."
--Antione de Saint Exupéry
Design, materials, size, fit and finish
This old quote sums up the design of the Dialog 3 quite nicely. Some might see a black cylinder. I see a very attractive, minimalistic design that's modern yet refined at the same time. My matte black version looks like it was chiseled out of rock, then smoothed. The feel of the material reminds me of my Visconti Homo Sapiens Lava Steel (not a bad reference). It's very, very pleasant to the touch and never gives me the feeling of handling plastic. As a result, I love to fondle and twiddle it when not writing. It's a substantial pen to write with because there's no cap that comes off. And it's heavy, by far the heaviest pen in my little collection. Size and weight combined mean that this pen is not for everyone - so try before you buy!
I can be brief about quality of engineering, fit and finish: I don't think I've ever held a pen that inspired more confidence than this one. It's like a Mercedes. A fantastic example of Deutsche Gründlichkeit. Rotating the barrel clockwise makes the nib come out and sinks the clip lower onto the barrel (how do they do it...?). It's very addictive to do - it feels so confident somehow. Watching the nib disappear behind its concave hood and seeing the clip rise is truly a thing to behold. Rotating the barrel counterclockwise unscrews the pen and reveals über-engineerd innards with a nice, big converter and the screwed-in, removable nib/feed unit.
The nib: architect!
The sleek, two-tone design of the nib is a good match to the overall vibe of the pen. The F wrote too wide for me so I requested the EF and was delighted to discover that Lamy chose to grind it as an architect nib!
I compared this architect to my old MB 146 EF with 14C nib, which is also a factory-made architect. Both pens write in a very similar way when using straight-up print script (I do not know the proper names of writing styles, sorry) but very different when using cursive: the MB then writes a _much_ wider line. I find the MB EF nib to be slightly more forgiving and pleasant, but the Lamy EF to be more versatile and offering very good control. It's a rigid nib and I cannot detect even a tiny bit of bounce or sag but then again I've never seen a soft architect. As with all architects, it requires attention to keep the writing angle consistent. Tactile response from the writing surface is pronounced but not in the least unpleasant. 90 g/m^2 Oxford paper is a fantastic match; Tomoe is less forgiving, Rhodia is somewhere in the middle. Personally, I love this nib!
(For those not acquainted with architect nibs: try before you buy! An architect requires you to maintain a constant writing angle. You might say that you don't move your hand down the page as you write, but you move the page upwards beneath your hand. I adore a good architect, but they're certainly not for everyone.)
Ink and wetness
Essentially the Dialog 3 is a C/C pen that accommodates either proprietary Lamy cartridges or the included converter. Filling the converter requires unscrewing the barrel, then screwing out the converter/nib/feed unit and dipping that into an ink bottle. When using cartridges, the unit can stay in the pen and you can just remove the cartridge. Ink capacity seems generous, though I did not measure it. Several hours of writing emptied the converter halfway.
I inked the pen with Kaweco Midnight Blue, a relatively dry, high-quality ink which can appear black-ish in wet pens but transforms into a transparent, complex, night-sky kind of blue-black in dryer pens. Lamy warns not to flush the Dialog 3 with any kind of detergent, only with water, so I was curious to see how well the pen would perform out of the box. During the first hours, ink flow appeared to be almost perfect. Almost, because it is a trifle inconsistent, gradually varying from slightly dryer to slightly wetter. The complex nature of the ink is pleasantly revealed by this pen. The nib never skips, never hard starts.
Endurance, ergonomy and such
Despite its weight and size, this pen feels great in my hand and I can write longer sessions with it without fatigue, cramp or any other kind of discomfort. Having said that... if I then switch to a similarly sized pen from another brand, it feels like stepping over from a big, fat Merc S-Class into a Ferrari. My Pilot Justus 95 feels amazingly comfortable after a session with the Dialog 3. It's like being liberated from restraints, it's not subtle... To a lesser extent, the same is true of my Visconti Homo Sapiens Midi. Switching to another pen makes the hand fly over the page.
The inevitable comparison to its Japanese counterpart
Compared to the Pilot VP, the Dialog 3 is much heavier, girthier, holds much more ink, has a different nib release mechanism, offers less colour schemes, has a retractable clip and is of a more minimalistic, modern design that looks less like a ballpoint and more like a monolith. For the VP, one can buy additional nib/feed units in varying nib sizes. For the Dialog 3, and at a similar price, one can buy additional 14k nibs in varying sizes that easily slip on/off the pen. This basically means that you can buy a VP or a Dialog 3 and use various nib sizes with the same pen, at will. The Lamy is considerably more expensive compared to non-LE VP models, but both the Lamy and the Pilot can be found at (much) reduced prices if one is prepared to make the search effort. Both the Pilot and the Lamy are top-quality pens but personally I'd say that the build quality of the Lamy is even higher than that of the Pilot. In the end, as always, the choice is personal.
The combination of design, degree of engineering, quality and the architect nib make this pen irresistible to me. It's not just another pen; it really is a instrument of fine writing as well as a fashion statement and a showcase of amazing engineering. I don't think it will make me forget my other pens like the Justus, the HS or some of my vintage pens, but we'll see. Opinions can change over time, which is why this will be an expanding long-term review.