Having dawdled and dithered, I finally acquired one of the so-called "granite" finish Diplomat Esteems from a certain well-known Virginian-based pen dealer.
Boy, am I glad I did. I'm already familiar with the Esteem. I'm in the book trade and I work with a pen in my hand. For the last several months, I've been using an Esteem on an almost daily basis. I find it lightweight, nimble, and equipped with a spry steel nib. My current favorite has a smooth matte finish that seems to be both fingerprint and scratch resistant (tempting fate, I know). And at 26g, including the cap, it suits me down to the ground. I keep my Excellences for the evening.
My hesitation over the "granite" was that I feared it would be too "plastic-y" to the touch. It's not. It offers a curious feel, almost like that of a sugared almond. That's the best comparison I can think of. It's pleasant to the touch not slick. Still cool but less cool than the usual lacquer.
But here's the thing. The cap carries the word "Diplomat" in a straight line, without the famous (for some, beloved) "ink flower" logo. And the clip is plain and tapered, without the telltale drip-lomat cut-out.
I am curious to know if these are "old-style" pens, "new style" pens or some other off-piste variant. I have looked at a few European sites and not seen any. I have not pored over old trade catalogs because I don't have any.
Performance is 100% perfection (as one would expect). Appearance is 98% classic and 2% different. I'm intrigued and wonder if other Diplomateurs have found comparable variations in other parts of the world.