A common topic on Fountain Pen Network for lively reaction, asks what pen you would keep if you could only keep one. Looking over at my pen cup, I thought perhaps the Diplomat Esteem may be my current answer to this question. This was one of my 2016 buys and my first pen from this long-established German brand.
The pen is of a glossy black lacquer over a gently tapered metal barrel and cap, with silver coloured fittings. It has a snap-on cap, a black plastic molded section and a stainless steel nib. Mine is a medium. It takes standard international cartridges or a converter, which is not supplied. There is room to carry a spare cartridge in the barrel, so that you may never run out if you are away from your supplies.
The thin metal cap is not embellished with a ring and so looks a little unfinished with a rim which is a bit sharp to the touch. But the beauty of this lies in the fact that when capped, the barrel and cap are perfectly flush and yet there is barely any noticeable step, between the barrel and the section where you grip the pen. Also, it means that the cap, when posted onto the slightly tapered barrel, again fits flush to the barrel and makes for an attractive, if simple, well-balanced pen in the hand.
The barrel has a shiny metal end stop which has a slight “muffin top” rim which allows the cap to post securely with a click.
The only adornment on the pen, is the Diplomat logo, a symmetrical design like eight flower petals in black on a white background on the finial. It is covered by a clear plastic dome. This distinctive logo does stand out well if searching for the pen in a bag or pen cup. A single black petal emblem is neatly reprised by a cut-out towards the lower end of the curvaceous pocket clip.
The real gem however, is the stainless steel nib. It also has the Diplomat logo and reads DIPLOMAT, SINCE 1922, M. It is unusual in several respects. There is no breather hole. The very long, sweeping curves of the nib put me in mind of the prow of sleek motor launch on a lake. Also, viewed in profile, the feed is very shallow and has no fins and so is rather like the feed of a Lamy Safari.
The nib performance on my pen was superb. It was smooth, with a good flow, right from the start. The long nib also has a bit of softness to it, allowing for some line width variation, all making for a very pleasant writing experience.
There are so many examples of metal bodied, lacquered pens with stainless steel nibs but this seems to be a cut above the rest, in terms of the simplicity, comfort, quality and performance.
This is a medium sized pen. The length of the pen when uncapped (124mm) or when posted, (155mm) are both the same as for the Pelikan M600.
The Esteem is the mid-sized version and Diplomat also make a slimmer version, called the Traveller or a broader one, called the Excellence, neither of which I have yet tried. However, I have read very good reviews, particularly about the nibs.
Finally, the packaging of the Diplomat Esteem was rather surprising. Inside the large white cardboard box which bore the Diplomat name and logo, there was a stiff cardboard box tray with a sliding metal lid, again bearing the Diplomat name and logo. When you remove this, a cardboard flap (again with the name and logo) can be lifted to reveal the pen on a soft white pad, beneath which you find the warranty booklet, with a guarantee for five years. All this packaging is enough to produce your very own shop window display if you so wish.
The pen weighs approximately 28.5g including two cartridges or 17.5g when uncapped. This seems an ideal weight, to feel sufficiently substantial but without being tiring.
And so why might I chose this as my only pen? Whilst very understated and not particularly exciting to look at, this belies a pen which has for me, a comfortable size, shape, weight, balance and performance. The metal construction feels robust and reassuring. I find very little not to like about it.