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The Diplomat Aero – Aka The Zeppelin Pen?


Jamerelbe
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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 ( B) 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.

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I'd be very interested to hear from anyone else who's had experience with these pens - especially if you have any views on the clip and grip section!

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I like the look of the logo on the nib, but it's too large on the end of the pen. If it was smaller and a slightly tighter design it could look like a little sashimono. As it is, it cheapens the look of the pen.

I've had no problems with the clip, but I am conscious of it being a tiny bit on the fragile side. I normally hate steps and metal pens. The finish is great and the grip is long enough to ensure the huge step doesn't irritate me when I write. It is a very smooth nib, but the balance in the pen ( I post) is just ever so slightly off which I have noticed effects my writing. Nice pen though and quite a wet writer, which I also appreciate.

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Thanks @Uncial, I agree about the logo on the finial - just can't quite bring myself to deliberately remove what remains of it, rather than let 'nature' take it course as it wears away.

 

I used to be a compulsive poster of caps - but I find it throws the balance of for a lot of pens, so it's becoming less common for me to do so.

 

Thanks for your feedback re the clip - I'm fairly confident that as long as I'm not rough with the pen, it'll stay put. I'd be interested to know if anyone *has* come a cropper with this - I'm *sure* that one of the reviews I read or watched before ordering the pen indicated this could be a problem...

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I've owned this pen for the better part of a year and agree entirely with the reviewers comments. Lovely pen and I find myself returning to it over and again. I had a similar experience with the logo rubbing off the finial. I also sent it back to diplomat as the inner cap wore down and the cap did not hold as tightly as it had. Diplomat replaced the inner cap for no charge and were very interested as they hadn't heard of it happening before. The clip, on the other hand, I have had no problems with and seems very secure. One of my favourite pens.

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Thanks @Martinsroom, it's good to have the perspective of someone who's owned the pen a little longer - I'll keep an eye out for the inner cap problem, but reassured to know the clip's not a concern for you. I think it *is* stiffer than the clips on my other Diplomats, but good to know that it's held up well for you regardless!

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  • 2 months later...

We've just given this the full team review at United Inkdom, including the new black finish and the gold-nibbed-version. It comes out pretty well!

 

I think a Aero will be next years majour purchase. Not a big fan of the new black colour scheme I feel it looses the organic appearance that makes Diplomat pens so special. Probably will go with a matt silver as I already have the matching pencil.

Edited by The Blue Knight
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I think a Aero will be next years majour purchase. Not a big fan of the new black colour scheme I feel it looses the organic appearance that makes Diplomat pens so special. Probably will go with a matt silver as I already have the matching pencil.

 

I don't enjoy the 'feel' of the grip section as much as I do the Diplomat Excellence A (I generally prefer plastic or resin to metal) - but even so I really love this pen. The aesthetic is unique and (IMV)very attractive, and my Medium nib writes beautifully smoothly with a wet line. Am I repeating the contents of my original review? Probably, but my appreciation for this pen has not diminished in the time I've owned it.

 

I'm not sure the black would be for me either - I have too many black pens already anyway! - but I reaaally like the brown.

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To be fair, the 'black' is more of charcoal grey. I'm not always a lover of metal sections either, but this one is quite grippy - I think the matt coating really adds something. That's somewhat ironic, given that it was the spray-on coating of powdered aluminium that did for the R101, and this is an aluminium pen shaped like a Zeppelin, but dirigible trivia aside... I love it too : )

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  • 11 months later...

To be fair, the 'black' is more of charcoal grey. I'm not always a lover of metal sections either, but this one is quite grippy - I think the matt coating really adds something. That's somewhat ironic, given that it was the spray-on coating of powdered aluminium that did for the R101, and this is an aluminium pen shaped like a Zeppelin, but dirigible trivia aside... I love it too : )

 

So avoid using this pen during electrical storms?

ron

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So avoid using this pen during electrical storms?

ron

 

As long as your ink is helium-based, not hydrogen, you should be fine... :unsure:

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  • 2 years later...

Resurrecting this thread to voice a dissenting opinion. I just went through great trouble and expense to return my Diplomat Aero for a refund. I got a special edition purple one with a 14K EF nib, when it was on sale from Goulet Pens. I too fell head-over-heels for the pen's appearance. I like slightly heavier pens, so the weight felt great to me. Despite the ridges, it felt very comfortable in my hand. And a special note about the converter: the best twist-type converter I've ever used. After filling, discharging and filling again, it filled to 90% on that second time. No jiggling or uprighting and blowing out the air or other pharmacist's tricks like with other converters.

 

But the writing experience? The first day, I thought this was the smoothest, most pleasurable EF nib I'd ever used. I was in love. Until I left it overnight, stored horizontally as with my other pens. Next day: hard starts and skipping on every single vertical stroke. I gave it a thorough cleaning, flossed the tines with brass sheets, tried several inks, including Noodler's Lexington Gray, which gushes like dirty hose water from every other pen. Tried every grade of paper I own. No luck. 24 hours after filling with new ink, something is gumming up. My two-dollar Pilot Petit 1 offers a less frustrating writing experience.

 

I took close-up photos of the nib to send to both Goulet and Diplomat customer service. Both said there appeared to be no problem with the nib itself. I blame the overall design. Goulet Pens was wonderful in taking back the pen after seeing evidence of the problem.

 

Teaches me a lesson: I will be extremely hesitant about buying another pen based on external appearance alone.

Edited by Billingsgate
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@Billingsgate, I'm sorry to hear about your negative experience. I have to say, though, I don't know how you can blame the performance of the nib on the overall design of the pen - especially when the experience of so many other buyers has been so positive!

 

Sounds to me like the pen you received had a problem - maybe with the feed rather than the nib - and I'm glad to hear that Goulet Pens looked after you.

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I bought an orange Aero about three months ago and found the Fine nib was a writing dry and squeaky, and I was having difficulty getting it to lay down a reliable line on any of my normal paper options to the point of frustration. So I sent it off to Mark Bacas at nibgrinder.com to fiddle with and am expecting it back in another week or so. I am hoping he will be able to fix whatever is the problem with the nib; I certainly couldn't see any noticeable issues under a loupe (not that I am any expert). One way or the other I'll follow up this post with the results.

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Diplomat deserve far more prestige. Their steel nibs are better than some gold ones and they feel great in the hand. Anyone who hasn't tried a Diplomat Steel nibbed pen is missing out

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I also bought an orange Aero about six months ago. I loved using it - no problems whatsoever through a whole ink cartridge. Was thinking of buying another one, in another color, but then decided that one is enough.

 

Erick

 

Using right now:

Parker Duofold "F" nib running Pelikan Königsblau

Leonardo Officina Italiana Pura "F" nib running Diamine Autumn Oak

Click Aristocrat "F" nib running D'Atramentis Cyan Blue-Copper 

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