Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Aurora 88 Anniversario - Fine Flex Nib @CouronneduComte

I ordered this pen from La Couronne du Comte after missing out on the red one. Although I was unsure how well the flex nib would work, I didn't want to pass it up!
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Aurora celebrates its 70 year anniversary with the 88 Anniversario. There will be a total of eight colors released throughout 2017, with each piece limited to 188. This yellow comes after the blue and red, was released with the orange, and will be followed by brown, green, gold, and chrome.

ABOUT

Body Material: Resin
Trim: Gold
Cap: Screw on
Posts: Yes, friction
Ink window: Yes
Filling system: Piston-filler plus hidden reservoir
Nib material: 14kt yellow gold
Length (capped): 135.8 mm/5.35"
Length (uncapped): 130.4 mm/5.13"
Length (posted): 155.0 mm/6.10"
Length (section): 27.1 mm/1.07"
Diameter (barrel): 11.7 - 14.0 mm/0.46" - 0.55"
Diameter (section): 10.5 - 12.8 mm/0.41" - 0.37"
Weight (all): 23 g
Weight (cap): 8 g
Weight (body): 15 g
Price: € 620,00 with VAT - knock off VAT + 10% with my discount code and it becomes more tasty!
Where to buy: La Couronne du Comte
La Couronne du Comte Banner
ALL CUSTOMERS: GOURMET10
10% off (excludes Montblanc)

PACKAGING

Although this pen is an anniversary special, Aurora has kept the packaging mostly consistent. I like this because it looks uniform and tidy if you choose to keep your boxes. The 88 Anniversario is presented in a large, dark clamshell box with an Aurora anniversary-branded sleeve. The side of the outer box has the nib and pen details. The clamshell box has a leathery feeling to it and has the Aurora logo on top. The inside is a dark leather-like material. The removable bed holds the pen in place and there is also a bottle of ink along with it.
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There is an Aurora booklet under the bed with company details/history, pen information, instructions for best use, filling ink, etc. If you are new to fountain pens, this is worth reading through.

The presentation is elegant and classy, but for someone who doesn't keep boxes, I always prefer the most minimal approach. It looks great as a gift though!

APPEARANCE

The pen is the modern 88 model. It is a rounded cigar-shaped pen. The finial is a polished yellow dome and is unmarked. The clip is attached by a metal ring around the top of the cap. I really like the shape of Aurora's clips. It is a smooth, curvy clip that ends in a teardrop. On a simple pen, it looks great. The pen is numbered in a black script: 175/188. The black stands out against the yellow, which you may or may not like. I don't mind it.
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There is a center band located at the end of the cap. It is engraved with 'Aurora' and has two thin black rings in it. It's a simple but attractive center band. There is also a thin metal band at the end of the piston-turning knob. The section is fairly long, tapering slightly towards the nib and ending in a flared ridge. There are resin threads at the back of the section, and a clear, double walled ink window. The ink window is not visible when the pen is capped, and the cap band connects smoothly with the barrel.
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The cap, section, and barrel are a solid yellow resin. It is well polished and does not look cheap or flimsy. Of course, they could have made this spectacular using their Auroloide, but the yellow resin is still a cheery, pleasant color. The clip, center band, and all other trim is yellow gold. Of all the colors being released for this series, the yellow is my favorite, followed by the red and orange.

The pen appears well finished and well made. I observed an evenly-spaced, very small gap between the finial and cap ring but that's about it. Minor detail because it looks like it was intentional.

I have mixed feelings about the choice to use plain, solid colors for this special pen. While the yellow is pretty, I cannot help but think a special Auroloide would have been far more special and outstanding, especially for the asking price.

NIB & PERFORMANCE

The nib is supposed to be the highlight of this pen, of course. Aurora developed this flex nib in an attempt to reproduce vintage flex, from what I understand. Before I go on, let me just say this: I think it's great that a company is still making their own nibs and exploring different kinds of nibs. But, quite simply, it is not vintage flex, but I am grateful that someone is trying.
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The nib is a cute one. It is a solid 14kt yellow gold nib with wide shoulders and long, rather seductive tines. It is an interesting shape with the wide shoulders and thinned out tines. I find this design interesting because most of my vintage flex nibs have narrow shoulders and modern flex nibs usually have either the same narrower shoulders (i.e. Omas extra-flessible, Pilot Falcon) or cut outs in the shoulder to make the nib softer (i.e Marlon Aleph, Pilot FA, Franklin-Christoph flex nibs, etc).

Unlike what the fountain pen community was expecting, the nib does not have the Aurora scrollwork design. In fact, it's rather plain. It has a single slit, a round breather hole, and it is engraved with the Aurora Italy logo, 14K 585, and a hallmark. There is no nib size but all the flexible nibs in this series are fine points.
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I was expecting a nib something like the Omas extra-flessible nibs - soft, wet, super smooth - maybe even too soft. This one is definitely a fine writer, and it gives a nice, clean fine line with normal writing. It feels firm to me and there is a lot of feedback that borders on scratchiness. I have never used a nib with so much feedback before, and although Aurora nibs typically have some feedback, this is a bit too much for truly pleasant writing. It's noisy, regardless of paper type. I did not experience many hard starts but occasionally it did skip during normal writing sessions (without pressure). I don't think this was because the feed was dry, but because the tines were slightly misaligned from (trying to) flex it and the wrong angle gave way to a skip.

As for being a flex nib... the nib is pretty firm. If you compare it to Aurora's regular nibs, then yes, perhaps it is 'soft', but compared to another soft/semi-flex nib, it's firm. It is not soft when writing and it takes a fair amount of pressure to achieve noticeable line variation. It's not vintage flex, and it's not even a soft nib, but it can offer some line variation so it does qualify as semi-flex. All this flexible terminology can be confusing. What I mean is: it does not feel soft, but since it CAN offer line variation with sufficient pressure applied, it is semi-flexible, but not a soft semi-flexible. If you apply too much pressure, the tines will not snap back in place and ink flow will be hampered. If this happens, you must close the tines and apply less pressure. The amount of variation you can safely achieve is not a whole lot - perhaps a fine to a fat medium, maybe a broad if you really push it.
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 I did not find it soft or easy to flex so it's easy to use as a daily writer. It's a fun nib because some line variation is possible, but it's not super flexible. The snap back is not fast enough to feel like a responsive flex nib. It offers line variation similar to what I can squeeze out of a springy Visconti Palladium nib or a Pilot Falcon, only with more effort. If you use moderate pressure, you'll get slight line variation but the feed will keep up pretty well. To really push it, I did extensive writing mixing pressure in - it kept up well with moderate pressure and started to railroad with a lot of pressure. The performance in this regard is not bad - the nib hardness limits the line variation so ink flow keeps up. With some other modern flex nibs, the nibs are so soft, the feed can run dry so you can actually flex more than ink flow keeps up.

The good thing about this nib being firm but still being capable of line variation is a new user unfamiliar with flex nib is less likely to spring it than they might a really soft vintage nib.

IN HAND

Have I mentioned I love this clip? It's a snug clip that can be lifted. The tear drop ball at the end is angled underneath so it can be slid on and off papers, pockets, and pouches. It's tight enough to hold the pen in place as well.

The piston-filling mechanism has an interesting design - a hollow piston that houses some extra ink. It's great if you run out of ink but requires some attention when you're cleaning.

The shape of the section is comfortable and long enough to accommodate most grips. The threads are super smooth so will not bite your fingers. The flared ridge at the nib is somehow unnaturally hard and hurts my fingertips if I end up gripping it. The section is not slippery, even with longer writing sessions.
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Unposted, the pen has a comfortable length and is on the light side. It feels well balanced. I think if you have larger hands, you'll have to post it to give it more length. The cap can be posted snugly by friction and it gives the pen a bit more weight and length, which feels right and more comfortable for me. I love that it isn't a super heavy metal body. It's lighter and doesn't tire out my hand.
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PROS & CONS

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OVERALL

I like the Aurora 88 model. I have previously reviewed the Black Satin version with rose gold trim and I am definitely a fan of the features and the design. The yellow is a pleasant addition to my colorful pen case and I enjoy using a variety of nibs, not just for work-type reasons but also for creative fun. In that regard, this nib is enjoyable. The major downside, in my opinion, is the price of this pen. You can get a softer, more flexible nib (Pilot Falcon, for example) for far less.

As I said: quite simply, it is not vintage flex but I am grateful that someone is trying. The downside is the pen is quite expensive for a semi-flex, and although I justified it to myself (piston filler, gold nib, 'flex' nib, limited edition), it's just flat out expensive. I think it's an expensive way to release a new nib and is not easily accessible as such. Especially because it's limited to 188 pieces!

Am I happy with it? Yeah, for the most part. Sometimes the price tag of a pen doesn't match the value and enjoyment you get out of it, and in this case, my enjoyment is a bit lower than I was hoping for relative to the price, but I like to experience different nibs and I am satisfied I was able to try it out. I have fun with it.
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I received a discount on this pen so I could review it here! I have not been compensated monetarily for writing this review. Everything you have read here is my own opinion.

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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