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The Diplomat Aero is the third pen from the Diplomat range that I’ve added to my collection in recent times – and definitely the most interesting of the three, in terms of design! I wasn’t keen on it at first glance, but given my positive experiences with two of its stablemates – the Esteem (https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/271382-the-diplomat-esteem-conservative-german-styling-great-writing-experience/) and the Excellence A (https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/296585-the-diplomat-excellence-a-another-great-german-fountain-pen/) – I decided to take the plunge. So I contacted Kevin of JustWrite Pens (www.JustWrite.com.au), and asked if he had any left in stock. The answer came back in the affirmative – and in due course, yet another pen had made its way to my door. As with the Excellence A, the Aero is not an inexpensive pen – the recommended retail (with stainless steel nib) is up around US$195, though (once again) I was able to get a significant discount, with a site-wide 25% discount on offer during June 2015. The Diplomat Aero is not a perfect pen – it has a couple of drawbacks that I’ll outline in the review below – but it’s such a striking pen to look at, and writes so wonderfully smoothly, that I’m happy to overlook them. ______________________________________________________________________ 1. Appearance & Design (9.5/10)The Aero comes in exactly the same kind of box as the Excellence A – a generously-sized box with aluminium wrap-around lid. Inside the box I found the pen itself – a brown cigar-shaped object that tapers sharply at both ends. The barrel and cap are both deeply scored with “groove-like depressions” along their length that give the pen its distinctive look – according to Diplomat’s advertising materials, it’s designed to resemble a Zeppelin airship. http://i.imgur.com/Fp77kci.jpg http://i.imgur.com/mt6j03u.jpg I love the look of the pen when capped – the chocolate brown colour of the bulk of the pen, topped and tailed with brushed aluminium ‘finials’. It *does* look a bit like a(n elongated) Zeppelin airship – a very unusual shape, but it’s really grown on me! Uncapping the pen reveals a brushed aluminium grip section, with a fairly severe step-down from the barrel – but the length of the grip is sufficient to ensure this doesn’t create any issues in terms of comfort. 2. Construction & Quality (8/10)The Aero is a robust pen, very well made, with a full aluminium casing, and anodised surfaces – in this case, a matte brown finish. With two caveats (see below) this is a pen I’d expect to cop a lot of abuse without trouble (though if you want to retain the finish, you’ll need to take all due care!). The pen barrel appears to be quite thick, the cap a little less so – but both are extremely sturdy. The grip section threads securely into the barrel, and the cap snaps on to ensure an airtight seal, ensuring the ink won’t dry out in the nib. Be warned: at least initially, a bit of firm pressure is required to get the cap to fit snugly. http://i.imgur.com/aM7dn24.jpg http://i.imgur.com/3P4X3Wz.jpg I only have two real concerns with the quality of the construction: first, there’s the aluminium clip. I’ve read a couple of comments online that suggest it’s a little fragile. It’s certainly quite stiff and inflexible – like the rest of the pen, I believe it’s made of anodised (matte silver finish) aluminium, which I suspect may have a lower tolerance to bending and springing. The clip itself is also made of two parts – a smaller, bent section that attaches to the pen under the cap finial, and the ‘body’ of the clip itself, which runs the length of the cap. The two parts are either soldered or screwed together (or both – it’s hard to say which!). The consequence of this is that it feels a little flimsy to me – I can see how it might fairly easily snap off if it got snagged on something (at least one online review has reported this problem). http://i.imgur.com/d7Ul107.jpg http://i.imgur.com/EYwQUSU.jpg [Forgive the poor focus - my setup isn't the best!] A second, smaller concern is the ‘paintwork’ on the pen – the words ‘Diplomat’ and ‘Made in Germany’ are painted (in white) onto the anodised surface of the cap (near the base), while the logo is painted in black onto the finial. With extended usage about half the logos has worn away, and it looks likely the remainder will follow, leaving the finial a bare brushed aluminium dome. Similarly, the white text on the brown anodised aluminium has begun to wear off in places. Neither of these greatly concern me – they’re cosmetic details. What’s more, to be honest, I didn’t find the logo very attractive – if anything I think the pen looks better without it! 3. Weight & Dimensions (10/10)Like its more conservative ‘cousin’ (the Excellence A), the Aero is a substantial pen – if you prefer a lightweight pen, you should look elsewhere. It weighs 41.5g capped, and 30.5g uncapped – unlike the Excellence, the bulk of the weight is in the barrel, not the cap. http://i.imgur.com/XgmBDxs.jpg The pen is 140mm capped, and 129mm uncapped; ‘posted’ (i.e., with the cap sitting loosely on the back of the pen), it’s somewhere around the 160mm mark (my calipers max out at 155). At the join between cap and barrel (the widest point), the pen’s diameter is 15mm. The grip section is nearly 30mm long (from ‘step’ to nib), and tapers gently from a maxmimum diameter of ~12.3mm down to 10mm. http://i.imgur.com/UX9dHAM.jpg 4. Nib & Performance (9/10)The Aero takes exactly the same nib as the Excellence A –#6 size, made of stainless steel (though gold nib options are also available). Once again, I was only able to obtain the pen with a M nib – which I found to be a wonderfully smooth writer, laying down a generous amount of ink with hardly any feedback. These two pens (the Excellence A and the Aero) are among the smoothest writers in my collection – though the Esteem is not far behind (once I’d sorted out its skipping issues). The one thing that differentiates these two higher-end pens, in terms of writing experience, is the slight slipperiness of the aluminium grip section – at least in winter, when my hands are dry. I find I have to grip the pen just a little tighter than is ideal. I would have expected this to be a deal-breaker – but surprisingly, it isn’t. It takes a couple of minutes to adjust… then off I go. http://i.imgur.com/D3kH279.jpg I should also mention, for the sake of completeness: I don’t find these nibs to be very ‘flexible’. They’re not quite nails – you can gain some line variation by exerting pressure – but they’re at their best when they’re gliding across the page rather than being forced down into it. I haven’t tried the gold nibs – but my understanding is that for the additional price they’re not significantly softer. The stainless steel nibs are probably be the best value option for most users. http://i.imgur.com/BLfBikp.jpg 5. Filling System & Maintenance (9.5/10)Diplomat pens take standard international cartridges and converters. The lower-priced Esteem did not come with a converter included in the price; thankfully, both the Aero and the Excellence A do. The Diplomat-branded converters are well-made, sturdy… and will hold about 0.7-0.8mm of ink. This is not a particularly innovative system – but it makes refilling the pen as straightforward as can be. http://i.imgur.com/rjQaXaW.jpg 6. Cost & Value (9/10)The RRP of this pen is around US$195 – I’ve seen it for sale at AU$195 in various Australian stores, which is pretty good given the current exchange rate. This wasn’t available on the JustWrite website at the time I enquired about it, and still hasn’t been returned to his listings – but at my request he was happy to send it out. 7. Conclusion (Final score [sUM/6]: 9.17)I like the Aero almost as much as I like my Excellence A – they’re both wonderfully classy looking pens. The Aero is the more striking / interesting of the two in terms of appearance, but is shaded by the Excellence A because of (a) the writing experience (i.e. the slight slipperiness of the Aero’s grip), and ( concerns over the clip and the disappearing text and logo. Those are very small concerns, though – I’m really glad I invested in this pen. It won’t be everyone’s preference, aesthetically or practically – but it’s a real winner in my books.
Jamerelbe posted a topic in Fountain Pen ReviewsThe Diplomat Excellence A is a pen that’s been on my radar for the past year or so – a beautiful looking pen, with a reputation for being a smooth writer… but it was just a bit too far above my budget. Enter Kevin from the JustWrite Pen Company, who’s provided me with pens for review in the past (including the Diplomat Esteem – see https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/271382-the-diplomat-esteem-conservative-german-styling-great-writing-experience/). In June 2015, Kevin was offering a 25% discount on all products listed on his website – on top of the (comparatively) competitive pricing he’d already put on these pens. The only option available (from memory) was a pen with chrome and black finish – but an email enquiry revealed that he also had stocks of the Marakesh finish. He kindly agreed to list one so I could take advantage of the discount… and here we are. True confession: the Diplomat Excellence A is probably the most expensive pen I own – but I have no regrets about ‘splashing out’. I’m not normally a fan of M nibs (I prefer fines and stubs/italics), but even so writing with this pen is a sheer pleasure. After 3 months (and a few other pen purchases), this is still up there in my top 2-3 (along with my matte black Vanishing Point and my TWSBI 580 with custom ground cursive italic). ______________________________________________________________________ 1. Appearance & Design (10/10) From the moment I opened the parcel post envelope, I was impressed with what I saw. The Diplomat box (with aluminium wrap-around lid) is large and imposing, and speaks of quality. http://i.imgur.com/CailtrQ.jpg http://i.imgur.com/Fp77kci.jpg And as for the pen? I liked the Diplomat Esteem I was provided for my previous review, with its ‘piano’ black lacquer and chrome accents – but the Marakesh finish on this pen is just beautiful. A deep coppery-brown colour that’s hard to capture – becoming darker or lighter depending on the way it catches the light, and with a definite metallic ‘shimmer’ to it. The pen does come in a variety of finishes – so if the colour of the Marakesh is not your thing, there are plenty of other options – and the black finish is available in chrome or gold trim – but the basic shape remains the same. The Diplomat logo on the finial is black on white plastic – simple and understated; the shape of the pen is (like the Esteem) fairly standard and conservative. http://i.imgur.com/oebpGpV.jpg http://i.imgur.com/4fgk8FE.jpg 2. Construction & Quality (9/10) Like the Diplomat Esteem, the Excellence A is solidly constructed, beautifully designed, and flawlessly executed. The cap and body are made of metal, covered in a ‘metallic’-looking copper brown lacquer; the grip section is made (mostly) of plastic, but is pleasant to hold. http://i.imgur.com/wscVXl1.jpg The pen clip is attractive and sturdy, with a little bit of give. I admit I do baby this pen a bit, but the lacquer shows no signs of scratching or chipping. My only slight quibble is that you have to be careful capping the pen – unless pen and cap are lined up perfectly, the wings of the nib seems to ‘catch’ against the plastic inner cap. The pen posts fairly deeply, but doesn’t appear to be designed for it – and it upsets the balance of the pen (back-weighted) while writing. http://i.imgur.com/FRRizDh.jpg 3. Weight & Dimensions (10/10) There’s no doubt about it, the Excellence A is a substantial pen, with a reasonable ‘heft’ to it. If you like your pens ultralight, this won’t be for you – but I love the way it feels. The pen weighs in at 42.3g capped (with half-filled converter), and 14.6g uncapped – which means that much of the weight is in the cap. The diameter of the grip section is 12mm (at its widest – it tapers towards the nib), which is comparatively wide – I think that’s part of what I enjoy most about the ‘feel’ of the pen. http://i.imgur.com/zWN9tzz.jpg The pen is 139mm capped, and 129mm uncapped; posted, it’s a rather unwieldy (and back-weighted) 155mm. At its widest (just above the band), the cap diameter is 14mm, compared with ~13mm for the barrel (just below the cap band). 4. Nib & Performance (9.5/10) When I first received the Diplomat Esteem, I had lots of problems with the nib – it was slightly misaligned relative to the feed, and even after adjusting was prone to skip. I had no such problems with the Excellence A nib. The pen I purchased came with a stainless steel M nib (no other options available at JustWrite, though the manufacturer makes stainless steel and gold nibs, in F, M and B.). The M was beautifully wet and juicy – it laid down a fairly standard medium line. With moderate pressure it’s possible to get a bit of line variation – but with no pressure applied the pen glides so sweetly across the page, I wonder why anyone would want to mess with the writing experience! I’ve been using Diamine Ancient Copper as my ink of choice in this pen – it’s a fairly good match, colour-wise. http://i.imgur.com/hZS04t4.jpg http://i.imgur.com/LNUnZ1z.jpg 5. Filling System & Maintenance (9.5/10) The pen takes standard international cartridges (the barrel will fit two small cartridges back-to-back, or a single larger cartridge) – and a good quality (Diplomat-branded) cartridge converter comes standard. Nothing innovative or imaginative here – but I’m perfectly content with the limitations (and advantages) of this filling system. http://i.imgur.com/xp589en.jpg 6. Cost & Value (9/10) The RRP of this pen is around US$225 (much higher for the rhombus and guilloche finishes) – though a few Australian vendors are selling the black-and-chrome pen for AU$195-225. Given the weakness of the Australian dollar, that’s pretty good – I managed to get mine for under $150, which was just spectacular. Whatever the price, this is a beautiful pen – and available at significantly cheaper prices than (say) a Montblanc or a Pelikan of comparable size. My thanks again to Kevin from JustWrite Pens for agreeing to list the pen so I could buy it at the discount price. 7. Conclusion (Final score [sUM/6]: 9.5) The score I’ve given this pen reflects my enthusiasm for it: it’s a conservatively-styled pen, no doubt about it, but is so comfortable to hold and write with – and I really love the unusual colour of the Marakesh finish. It would be just as good a pen if it were black… but a little less attractive (for mine) to look at. If you’ve got the cash to spare (hey, it was my birthday!), I’d thoroughly recommend this pen as an option to consider.