Aurora 88 (817) fountain pen review

Aurora is one of few still operating Italian fountain pens makers. Omas is gone, Stipula has some ongoing problems, it seems only Visconti manages well. On the other hand I haven’t seen their financial reports. As for Aurora I keep on asking myself how on earth they manage to function? They employ a  lot of people and have big factory and it seems their fountain pens aren’t really popular.

Aurora produces fountain pens that are very diverse stylistically – just look at Aurora Talentum, Idea, Ipsilon and 88 – they look like pens produced by different companies. Their economy  models (Idea, Ipsilon, Style) enable clients to enter the brand’s world before moving upscale by purchasing expensive and prestigious models. The thing is I’ve never liked design of Aurora’s cheaper pens. On the other hand I always enjoyed the looks of their expensive pens but, well, they are REALLY expensive so I wasn’t in a hurry to buy them.

I wanted to try them first but even though I regularly participate (few times a year) in fountain pen afficionados meetings in Poland there was never a lot of Auroras to try. It seems their not popular in my country. Which is surprising as I find Aurora 88 or Optima designs much more interesting than these of german tanks (Montblanc, Pelikans).

Aurora 88

Aurora 88 is Aurora’s most well known fountain pen. Also it’s one of most well-known fountain pens ever made. It’s an icon of italian style and Vintage Auroras not only look well – they were engineered to last and write amazingly well. The ones you can find on ebay can still – in their late seventies – ashame most of modern fountain pens by their quality and pleasure derived from writing experience. The model was designed by renowned industrial designer – Marcelo Nizzolli who is credited with design of the Olivetti Lettera 22 and Lexicon 80 portable typewriters as well as the Necchi Mirella sewing machine.

The pen went through some design and name changes during years after its introduction and in the 1970s decision was made to discontinue the model. If you want to know more you should definitely read amazing post about Aurora 88 dynasty published on Fountain Pen Network.

Happily with years passing and due to lack of creative ideas (just my interpretation) the company decided to reintroduce model 88.  Additionally they saw it fit to change the design and make the pen more modern looking. New Aurora 88 features black resin barrel and five different trim options , a redesigned ink window, rhodium-coated14 ct gold nib (available in EF, F, Italic Medium, M, B) and piston-filling mechanism. After few years slim, CC model called Aurora 88 (817) was introduced. Personally I find vintage Aurora 88 design more interesting.

I’ve managed to buy cc version of this pen for 200 $, much less than MSRP. I would prefer to get piston-filler but you know how it is, when the bargain appears you don’t have much time to act. Sometimes it’s just better to take a risk and regret later than not to take a shot at all.

Impressions

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Aurora 88 (817) with chromium plated cap looks stunning. Especially from some distance – closer look allows to see some of the pen shortcomings – it still makes rather good impression but not as good as seen from distance. The packaging is rather impressive. The pen itself is made of precious resin – I prefer to call it plastic for what it really is. Material is pleasant to touch but it simply doesn’t feel precious. It feels average at best. It feels light and fragile and is prone to collect dust and fingerprints easily. If you’ve ever used Sailor or Pilot plastic pens you won’t be impressed with Aurora’s “precious resin”. Sailor’s acryllic glass feels much, much better in hand  I may be wrong and it may happen that the barrel is quite durable but I won’t risk to make any endurance tests on this pen.

 

Without the cap Aurora 88 (817) wouldn’t have much character. Chromium plated and gently ribbed cap looks simply stunning. It gives nice contrast to black body. I can’t understand one thing though – why Aurora dediced to make it snap-on and not screw cap. I prefer screw caps. On the other hand the cap in Aurora has resistance when you’re capping it that is then followed by a satisfying CLICK. Is seems solid but only time will tell if this is the case.

The pen is very light and feels small in the hand without posting. The capis heavier than the body and is fluted. The clip is unadorned. Actually the only branding on the pen is the inscription “AURORA”  on the base of the cap.

The nib

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Olivastre L’artisan Pastellier on Moleskine, below Inti L’Artisan Pastellier on Oxford paper.

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On fountain pen forums you hear people say Aurora in-house nibs are one of a kind. They are handmade but contrary to Omas nibs they’re not buttery smooth. Some people don’t appreciate the feedback they give. Personally I enjoy buttery smooth nibs. While I believe my Omas Ogiva Alba is overpriced pen I absolutely love its nib. It’s simply amazing. How does Aurora’s nib compare to it?

Well, it’s definitely not the same and writing experience is different. Aurora 88 nib is small and rather stiff. If you are looking for some flex this definitely isn’t for you. It doesn’t skip and starts right away even after being uncapped for 5 minutes or more. The line is fairly wet but not as broad or as wet as in my Kaweco Classic Sport broad nib. All in all the writing is enjoyable but I prefer the feeling I get from writing with Omas or Visconti.

Filling system

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Standard cartridge / converter. Not my favorite filling system, but it does let the pen fill from a bottle like any other filling system. If converter fails, it is cheap and easy to replace. On the other hand for the price I would expect this pen to fill itself while I’m asleep. This doesn’t happen. I would prefer piston-filler especially that price difference between Aurora 88 (817) and her bigger piston-filling brothers is minimal, but I guess piston-filler wouldn’t be practical in such a slim pen.

Size

Aurora and Lamy Safari compared)

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Aurora 88 (817) is small and light pen, too small and too light to my taste.

Closed: 135 mms

Open: 130 mms

Summary

Aurora 88 (817) is nice fountain pen and I believe it could become quite popular if only it was priced more reasonably. For the price of  400 – 450  $ you can get a lot of pens and most of them are simply better than this one. The nib writes well, the cap looks great but personally I find Pilot CH 92 or Lamy 2000 much better pens – so called precious resin of Aurora’s body doesn’t feel precious, it feels cheap compared to Sailor’s acrylic glass or Lamy’s macrolon. Also this pen is simply to small and to light for my taste. The cap looks stunning though. That’s my favorite part of the design. All in all the pen performs well but it’s one of purchases I’m not really happy with, mainly due to its lightweight and small dimensions.

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “Aurora 88 (817) fountain pen review

  1. You’re right Rafael 🙂 The thing is I don’t know much about Marlen. I had one or two of their pens in hand on some FP meeting but I hardly recall the experience. I’ll need to check them. Are they worth it?

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    • I only own a Marlen Aleph which is an interesting pen with a somewhat flexible nib. Recently I have discovered the Marlen One. At about 60€ it seems an interesting entry level pen but I have no direct experience with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes – the prices are hifg. If I may advice something I would say vintage Aurora 88 is stunning pen. Much better than modern one. If you’ll find nicely preserved one it’ll have potential to serve you long years 🙂 I’m more into modern pens but Aurora 88 is one of exceptions.

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