In many respects I am late to the party. The Diplomat Aero has been out for a good few years in an ever expanding number of colours and finishes. I have tried a few over time, but it was only on the last International Fountain Pen Day (2021) that I finally pulled the trigger and bought one. Was it worth it, am I glad, and is the cap snap action as sexy as many a reviewer has made it out to be.
Launched to celebrate the 1900 flight of the first Zeppelin dirigible, from which it’s appearance is influenced, this pen has been around since at least 2015 with minimal change. Made out of aluminium, it is a weighty pen that could have come out of the 1920s with it’s Art Deco design. Hold the pen with the clip on the underside and it almost gives the impression of a gondola containing passengers and crew.
With this turquoise version the clip and the tip of the cap are a matt black or dark grey, almost an anthracite, matching the colour of the section. Oddly the tip to the barrel has a darker gloss finish. The only markings are the Diplomat emblem in a golden colour on the cap tip/finial (early Aeros had a propeller instead) as well as DIPLOMAT and GERMANY printed in white on opposite sides around the base of the cap. The former being placed under the clip.
The ribbing on the cap and barrel do look good and are central to the concept of the pen, however I have found that you can feel the ridges in the crook of the hand when using the Aero. If you are the sort of person who shuffles the pen around in your hand then you do feel it and I’m sorry to say it can make using the Aero slightly uncomfortable or even unpleasant. I suspect this will not be an issue to many.
The clip works very well. When not looking like a gondola or landing skid the t-bar mount has a decent spring to it, which along with the shape of the nub makes it easy to slide this pen over the seem of a pocket, while at the same time keeping it securely in place.
Much has been made of the capping and uncapping action. Other reviewers have described the action as like providing unearthly delights. Pull the cap off and you will wonder if your pen is broken. There is a slight click and vacuum release pop but that is it. Hardly an event, though the sound of air entering does indicate the nib is well protected and you are unlikely to encounter much, if any, ink evaporation. Now when replacing the cap there is a crisp snap sound as clutch securely slides home. The combination of the two can be quite pleasurable and so I can understand why people see this as an alternative to a fidget spinner. One word of warning though, unless the barrel has been tightly screwed on to the section, it will start to loosen then become undone as you snap away.
I have been nervous in the past over the section, but having tried a couple of Aeros at a pen club a few weeks before last year’s International Fountain Pen Day, my worries were alleviated with the direct result of this pen being placed on my shopping list. The reason for this concern is the brushed finish. I have a sensitive sense of touch and as a result I can find brushed metal uncomfortable to hold. Here it is not an issue. There is a little irritation as I shuffle the pen round to get a comfortable grip, however once found the problem vanishes.
It is hard to spot but there is actually a gentle curve to the tapering of the section. This, combined with the length, does mean it is very easy to comfortably hold the pen assuming you have no issue with the weight, which being made of aluminium is noticeable, but not close to what you would encounter with steel, brass, or copper barrels. The balance point is in the middle, just at the back of the flat area at the front of the barrel. This works well for me but a left handed person may prefer it further back.
The back of the section angles up, providing a smooth rest for fingers and thumb. It also is done in a way to mask the fact the barrel end is quite noticeable if you touch it when unscrewed. The way this is done is more obvious once you remove the barrel and look at the disk like plate that is almost double the width of the barrel threads. This certainly is a point where some consideration and deliberation has been put in to the design.
The cap posts securely and quite deeply, with the result the balance point is not moved that much further back, so you still feel the weight (now more) resting forwards. Unless you always post there is no reason to do so as this is quite a large and long pen.
Diplomat use size #6 Bock nibs, but as with their Stein based competitor, Faber-Castell, these are made to their own requirements and have little in common with the off the shelf products many others use. The net result, like with F-C, are exceptionally good nibs with very few issues, almost as if they are tested before the pens go out. The stamped patterning is simple, clean, and visually pleasing with the Diplomat logo taking centre stage, Diplomat and Since 1992 in two rows below that, then the nib size. I am not sure who makes the plastic feed as it has a distinctive shape, different from the default ones for Bock, JoWo, and Schmidt.
The writing experience lives up to the brand reputation. It was perfect out of the box, offering a smooth but firm experience. The ink goes down nicely and I would consider this to be a wetter nib, though a little hard to judge because I went for a broad size. Controversy time. Having tried a couple I actually prefer the Diplomat steel nibs to their gold ones so while I would suggest trying both, if you were originally planning to go 14k for your pen you may find yourself actually saving money and sticking with steel.
The filling system is international standard cartridge or converter and the pen comes with both, the latter being already installed. One word about screwing the barrel on to the section though. You need to make sure it is fully on and tight, else even with a hint of slackness the barrel will start to come off over time as you remove and replace the cap.
Packaging wise the Aero (and I assume all other Diplomat pens) is slightly different from the norm. While there is the usual branded cardboard outer box, rather than the lid of the ubiquitous clamshell case you get a metal frame which slides off an open cardboard box containing the pen on a bed, under which is the usual paperwork and a pair of cartridges. It is different, but I am not a fan as I find it awkward to slide the top off and do not see this as being practical if you are the sort of person who uses the boxes pens come in to carry them around and protect them. Fortunately most of us just store or discard the packaging.
Presently the regular Diplomat Aero is ~£170 from UK retailers for the steel nib version and £330 with the gold. Specials cost more. Interestingly there is now a pen with pouch and bottle of ink set for the same price as the pen, though no nib options so I assume medium steel only. I have no problem with these prices though, as I have previously mentioned, I would suggest saving £160 and going for the steel nib version if you can not decide between the two options. Certainly if you want the medium steel nib and your colour choice is one of the options, get the box set which effectively gives you a leather pen pouch and a bottle of ink matching the colour of the pen (worth ~£40 between them). My only concern is some of the limited editions have a large premium applied to them, which I think could be hard to justify unless you particularly want that look. Thing is, further down the line you can find these being sold at the same price or even less than the regular models such as here, here, and here.
So my views. Once I have a comfortable hold of the pen then I enjoy using it. The balance and weight work well for me and the nib is sweet. The capping/uncapping experience is seriously over-hyped, but then I would hope you are not the sort to just get a pen for use as a fidget spinner. The ridges/grooves do add an interesting level of tactility, however at the same time it is the prime reason this pen is not always comfortable for me to hold and I do have to move it around in my fingers occasionally before I start to write. I will not be alone in this, but then the cost of this pen does mean it is really one you want to try before buying. If the feel is to be an issue you will know very quickly.
So would I recommend this pen to others. If the texture is not an issue to you then it is a great pen. Sure it is in that crowded £150-£200 market, but for that price we have an attractive, well designed, and well balanced pen with a great nib. The Zeppelin influence also makes it stand out from the crowd. I’m not sure, however, I could recommend the gold nib version unless you really want one. If texture is an issue then you really do need to try this pen first before committing.
- Distinctive design.
- Great nib.
- Well balanced.
- ‘Fidget spinner’ type cap opening/closing is over rated/hyped.
- Pen may be too heavy for some people.
- The grooves may provide character but they also can make the pen uncomfortable to hold.
- Special/limited editions can be expensive.
I think quite a few people find Diplomat’s steel nibs to be as good as their gold nibs.It’s one of the things the brand is famous for amongst fountain pen enthusiasts.
Faber-Castell is based in Stein, Bavaria, not Stuttgart.
Cheers for the correction. I will fix it in the article. Not sure where I got Stuttgart from, I did actually look it up, wonder if they have a factory based there.
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