8 min read

A Quick Review of the Diplomat Nexus

When I saw a new filling system from a major player in the market, I knew I wanted one....
A Quick Review of the Diplomat Nexus

Executive Summary:

  • Excellent build quality of a large and heavy pen
  • The section is an excellent middle ground:
    • Diameter is right in that sweet spot
    • Not as slick as many metal sections, but not "sticky"
    • Long section means you have much grip freedom
  • The cap threads are thick, square cut with 1 turn to uncap:
    • Soft and unobtrusive
    • Feels very "industrial" under use
  • Body and cap finishing are crisp and impeccable
  • Ink capacity is excellent at approx. 3ml in my own usage
  • Styling speaks to premium but not "high luxury"
  • The 14k gold, broad nib was just okay out of the box, but even after some tuning on my part, the line is not that broad and only adequately wet
  • The nib grind is competent, but feels unrefined compared to Japanese nibs or those of Waterman, though more put together than most Lamys
  • The ink is a good standard ink with good coloring and hue, but it is not as well behaved as the best trad-black inks and not as gushingly luxurious as more premium inks
  • The filling kit is no gimmick and quite useful, very nice
  • The ergonomics are excellent, especially for such a heavy pen; I was surprised by how much it felt good for long writing sessions
  • Very quick and easy to use for quick writing
  • Seal is good on airplanes, but you can defeat it if you try hard enough
  • Ink flow from the feed could be a little more consistent

When I saw a new filling system from a major player in the market, I knew I wanted one to see how I might like it. As someone who does a lot of writing and all with more or less the same ink, a large capacity pen is very attractive to me. Having recently been playing with a Pilot Custom 823 with Broad nib, I was very interested in how something like this may compare. Similar to one of Conid's now discontinued designs, the Diplomat Nexus has an automatic shutoff valve built-in to a high-capacity eyedropper. On paper, this sounds ideal, but as Conid discovered, execution matters a good deal.

As for what I like in a pen, I am after a wet, broad line in a highliy ergonomic design that looks and feels premium and maybe a touch luxurious. I stray away from too much ostentatious display in a pen, but I am not immune to "big" pen flair. I also have a tendency to favor lighter pens that feel nimble. I have come to appreciate having a narrower section even if the rest of the body of the pen is thick and wide. I also like high capacity, because I will often write a pen dry in only an hour of writing if a pen has a wet nib and a small converter.

This Diplomat Nexus had a lot of my main "desirables" in a pen, but I was concerned with a few points. The main worry was the weight, and how that may or may not affect the ergonomics. I was also worried about an overly slick section and what that might do during long writing sessions. I knew that Diplomat had an excellent reputation for their nibs, especially their steel nibs, so I was not that worried.

Now that I have had sufficient time to play with the Nexus, I can say that this pen has surprised me in many ways, some good, and some less so.

I chose the black with gold trim and 14k broad nib for my test. Here, I knew I was taking a little risk, since many people have rated Diplomat's steel nibs more highly than their gold offerings. However, the vast majority of my daily use nibs are gold, and I wanted the gold trim and the look of the gold nib, so I took a chance on the gold option.

The packaging on the Nexus is cool, well thought out, and highly functional. I especially find the eyedropper fill kit that Diplomat includes to be a major value add. Many people fear the mess and potential effort of using an eyedropper filling pen, but the filling station holds all the appropriate pen and ink components in perfect harmony, making it very easy to use. An advantage of the eyedropper method is that you never worry about an ink bottle running low, since the pipette can fill from any bottle no matter how low the ink goes.

Using the pen, I was a little disappointed at first because the nib just did not write for me the way I like my nibs to write. The nib felt abnormally dry, and the sort of feedback I was getting did not feel as nice as, say, that of Platinum or Sailor. On many pens, this might have doomed it in my mind from the start. However, the Diplomat had other ideas.

While I was incessantly playing with the tuning of the nib, I found that I still did not want to stop using it. I knew that a part of this must be due to having a new pen to play with, but that was not all. In truth, I had initially doubted the claims that Diplomat makes about this pen being made for long writing sessions and ergonomics. My experience with Lamy and other metal sectioned, heavy pens has taught me to think of them as pens for quick writing and looking good, but maybe not for marathon sessions. Diplomat has proven me wrong in that assumption.

Despite the heavy body and the metal section, I do not experience much slipping, and my hand seems to keep hold of the pen with little effort. The balance of the pen is excellent, and while the weight makes me think that I should be quickly fatigued during long writing sessions, I find that my hand continues to write and write and I do not feel it. I think this has to do with two things. The metal body puts enough of the weight in the center that I do not need to do much to keep the pen neutral (great balance), but the extra slimness of the section for the size of the pen, and its length, makes it much easier to get an ideal hold.

Now, the section diameter is not narrow by any means. It is more in the medium range, but for a girthy pen, it comes off as more narrow, and I find that contrast contributes to a feeling of solid anchoring in my hand.

All told, the overall balance and ergonomics are not as nimble and effortless or dynamic as the ultra light Platinum #3776, which has some of the best balance and lightest feel of any pen I have used. Instead, it's more like a smooth but heavy luxury car. The experience is not straining, but we are not in a sports car either. I can make the pen move, but I am definitely aware of that extra weight; it just does not seem to make things any more tiring.

So, the pen is surprisingly ergonomic, holds a ton of ink, and seals well without extra nobs or bits to manage ink flow, and filling the pen is a breeze. Sounds ideal. For me, the weak link has been the nib and feed, though I want to lay more of the blame on the feed.

The nib just writes more dryly than I want. It is not really that dry, but the flow does not hold up as well as I would like. I have tuned the nib about as well as I can, but I found that the slit on the nib is much more narrow all the way back than I want. This puts a pretty hard limit on the tine spacing I can get away with while retaining reliable capillary action. During my experiments, I pushed the nib beyond those limits and was able to confirm that I lost reliability because of it. I wasforced to tighten up the tine spacing to return sufficient reliability.

Additionally, I have noticed the feed not delivering as much ink to the nib as I would have liked, and somewhat less consistently than I wanted, even to the point of occasionally drying out on me. You can see some of that in the handwritten version of this review, with the wetness of the pen going up and down. I htink putting a wetter feed in the pen would much improve it, though you would need to make sure that the feed was still able to prevent burping and the like.

Even after tuning the nib as well as I could, I find that the nib does nto feel quite as refined as some of my other pens. I would put it in the same class as some of my Lamy gold nibs, in that they needed much work to get them going, and even then, they are not quite perfect. I think the inconsistent flow is the main issue.

However, even when the flow of the nib is going well, I must admit that the nib is not really what I would think of as a broad nib. Rather, I would put it more in the camp of a beefy medium nib, if anything. Unfortunately, that is not something that I think can be fixed with more flow or any better tuning. That may ultimately prove to be this pen's undoing for me. Pretty much all other concerns I can work around, but the lack of nib width is not something to fix. My only real alternative would be to swap out the nib on this pen for another, but I must admit that I rather like the two-tone Diplomat engraving on the nib, so I do not think I will be completely satisfied with another nib from another maker.

[I the end, I think that a good nibmeister will be able to get this nib to the point where I feel very confident in it and like it a lot, but I do wish that it didn't need that. All of this is really just my own preferences on nibs, though, and I strongly suspect that others will really enjoy this nib.]

All in all, I think Diplomat have a winner on their hands. I know how many like the nibs, and the overall offering here is easily as good or better than many other pens. Diplomat has done a lot to make the eyedropper more usable and more practical to the average user. While I think many may ultimately find the size and weight too much for their liking, the quality and excellent ergonomics means that anyone who can put up with the weight will get an excellent writer that can really deliver both on short and long writing sessions.

My only other nit is that the heavy threading on the section and cap, while very rounded andblunt, and thus quite unobtrusive on the fingers, creates a very "thunky" capping feel when combined with the fact that the cap must rotate and compress the section into the pen body during capping, which means that there is significant pressure/resistance during capping and a touch of "grind" as the cap pushes into the section. I do not particularly like this feeling, but for many I am sure that it will lend that sense of solidity and "built tough" construction.

Time will tell how much this pen stays in my rotation, but writing this review with this pen by hand on Clairefontaine A4 paper has been quite fun, and my hand still feels good after the fact, and that is saying something.