Great styling that is just too big and heavy
When you think of innovative pen companies, Lamy does not usually top the list, despite a wide selection of pens produced. Especially the last few years, Lamy has seemed to miss some of the opportunities to be Innovative (such as the Black Amber Lamy 2000, black Safari special edition?). Lamy still releases interesting pens as the high demand for seasonal Lamy special coloured pens and inks demonstrates. But, if we are honest, Lamy’s flagship 2000 series pen has been largely unchanged for 51 years and the Safari, Al-Star, and LX lineup has been the same pen since it’s release in 1980.
I was understandably excited about a newly designed Lamy pen being released at the end of 2017. The beautiful marketing pictures generating conversation around the internet show a Bauhaus inspired body with a Safari style full-size nib. The photos showed a pen displaying sleek, elegant and futuristic design elements, and attractively brushed finish and cigar shape had me excited for the release of this pen. I can’t help but compare the design of this pen to the Lamy 2000, which I believe inspired it and will refer back to this comparison. If you aren’t familiar with the Lamy 2000, please also read my review here.
I saw the Aion when it was first released in a local pen store, that was heavily advertising the release with a large window display. Luckily, I got to hold and try the pen before making a purchasing decision. I didn’t purchase it at the time - I felt it was heavy and rear-weighted, and I had a hard time justifying the Canadian price point for a steel nib pen due to some other expenses in my life at the time. The tipping point was that I had to purchase a converter separately (which really annoys me in case Lamy is reading). I did like the aesthetic design and had a large case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
A few months later, my favourite local pen store was having a store-wide sale and I revisited the decision and purchased a discounted Lamy Aion in the olive-silver finish with an EF (extra-fine) nib. This review is of that pen.
As I previously mentioned, the aesthetic design of the pen is beautiful in the same Bauhaus style as the Lamy 2000. The body and cap are turned pieces from a solid aluminum block, shown by the machining marks on the solid ends of each piece. The finely turned aluminum is soft in the hands and the textured grip section provides a surprising amount of grip for a metal pen. I chose the olive-silver finish, which is really more silver and less olive, but the Aion also comes in a matt black finish as well.
The tubular body and cap are squared at the ends, compared to the tapered Lamy 2000. The clip is a one piece, solid design in a contrasting shiny, polished silver metal. This is larger and longer than the clip on a Lamy 2000 and the Lamy logo is stamped facing outward on the side of the clip. For some reason, this logo feels upside down to me.
The cap has a short, machined taper instead of a cap band and this serves as the transition from the cap to the body. The closed pen appears very sleek and streamlined. An inner cap is fitted to prevent the nib from drying out when capped. The cap clips on and off the body, making it ideal for quick notes. A bonus, compared to the Lamy 2000, is that there are no metal tabs on the sides of the body to secure the cap. For some writers, these tabs can be uncomfortable as they are right where some writers grip the pen.
The body unscrews from the grip to reveal a large cavity for a Lamy proprietary ink cartridge or a Lamy Z27 converter (sold separately). Lamy ink filling systems are always a pain point for me because of their propriety and non-standard fitting; only Lamy ink cartridges can be used with a Lamy pen, without an additional $10 investment in a Lamy made converter. I would feel much better about Lamy pens if they included the cartridge converter with the pen to allow the use of a wider variety of inks. Given that I can purchase similar converters for standard international cartridge fit pens included in complete Chinese pens, such as Jinhao, for just a few dollars, the overpriced converters and proprietary systems Lamy uses feel like a cash grab. As I step down from my soap box, I will point out a positive note that the section threads are very well made and the pen has a really solid construction.
I chose a Lamy Aion with an Extra Fine (EF) steel nib. Gold nibs are not an option for this pen. This steel nib is designed specifically for the Lamy Aion, and has a slightly different cosmetic shape than other Lamy nibs, however, is interchangeable with the Lamy Safari line of nibs and is easily replaceable. Replacement nibs are not yet available in this style, though. As usual, Lamy nibs tend to write broadly despite their designations and this nib writes thicker than most Lamy Safari EF nibs I already own. I also have a wonderful EF nib in my Lamy 2K and this nib is really wide in comparison.
Unfortunately, the nib on my pen felt terrible to me, right out of the box. I am not sure how to best describe the feeling of the nib when writing - but it felt like writing on a glue-lined surface. The nib felt heavy and dragged on the paper. What was strange was that it dragged but was not scratchy, as I would expect to feel with misaligned tines. This feeling, combined with a thicker line than I prefer writing left me very disappointed with the writing experience. I checked the alignment and fine-tuned the tines of the nib and smoothed the tipping material using a couple of grades of micro-mesh and the writing experience has improved but is still far from smooth. I still have some dragging/feedback and the ink flow is still inconsistent. I may play with the nib some more to get it right, but it disappointing to get a dud nib out of the box, particularly when discussing a pen in the $90 CDN price range. It's not unheard of to have problems with expensive new nibs (cough *Visconti* cough) but Lamy is usually much better. I am not sure if it is the new design of nib, or just a bad nib.
The other area of the pen that may be problematic for some writers is the size and weight of the pen. The Lamy Aion is large and heavy - even in my meaty hands. The grip section is wide - even noticeably wider than my Lamy 2000 at the same finger location - the larger nib makes a direct comparison challenging. The solid aluminum body makes this pen very heavy. I cannot write comfortably with the cap posted on the body (and I prefer to post everything).
Even unposted, this pen is heavy. At 30 grams including the cap, hand fatigue sets in quickly - for me, as quickly as a long paragraph!
As much as I love the minimalistic design of the Lamy Aion, enjoy the matt colour selection of the pen and like the solid feeling and the quickly-removable snap cap, I have a hard time recommending this pen. A questionable nib, a wide and potentially uncomfortable grip and a heavy body are really strong reasons to try this pen in a store before committing to purchase.
Given the $90 Canadian price of this steel-nibbed pen, I feel there could be better pens for the price, depending on your preferences and style. However, if you do enjoy solid EDC pens, this could be worth considering. That is if you get a nib that works properly.