Apparently I now have a thing for twisty retractable fountain pens. You may remember my review of the Montblanc 1912. I have a Pilot Fermo on the way. And here is the Lamy Dialog 3.
I’ll say this first: this is a hell of an odd pen. No cap. No section. No finials or any of that jazz. Oh, and it’s retractable of course.
It’s the kind of pen that could only have come from Lamy. I don’t mean because it’s got the distinctive slip-on Lamy nib, or because the Lamy logo is prominently displayed on the rear (duh). No, the giveaway is the kind of stripped-back ethos that birthed the 2000 and the Aion, the use of metal and textures, the reliance on engineering instead of styling. Seeing the three designs together, they look at home.
But let’s get some things out of the way.
This is an expensive pen, by Lamy standards (although not compared to the Montblanc, eh?). Only the Imporium is more expensive. I got mine in matte black from Iguanasell for a shade under £200; you can get it in matte silver for the same price, or in glossy piano black or gloss white for a bit more. Compare that to the 2000: I got a good deal on mine, and paid less than £100 for it; it seems to retail normally for about £130. That should give you some context.
It’s also a huge, whopping great pen (that’s why I chose the black… it’s slimming, right?). See it retracted next to some capped pens and it doesn’t look anything special. But unlike other pens, it doesn’t get shorter when it’s ready to write: it gets longer. And it’s made of metal, and it’s heavy. There’s no section: you grip the barrel, which is wide. For a guy like me who doesn’t post pens, at first writing with the Dialog felt like swinging a lamppost around.
Unbox the Dialog and you giggle a little. It’s huge, and it’s largely featureless. As other reviewers have noted, while other pens are kinda cigar-shaped, this is an actual cigar rendered in aluminium. In fact, it’s a cigar tube. The satin finish on the aluminium makes the pen sing as you brush it with your fingers. Two parallel lines lead you to the Lamy logo.
The clip stands out against the black. It’s hinged like other Lamy clips, but only barely. I found it difficult to use, but then I never clip my pens anyway. Mine also wiggles a bit side to side, which is unfortunately very noticeable due to the parallel lines placed right next to the clip…
Extending the nib makes the clip recess slightly into the barrel, which is a clever trick but pretty meaningless in terms of comfort: the clip ends up nowhere near flush with the barrel. Perhaps it’s to ensure you never clip it to clothing without retracting the nib first?
Anyway, I never got on with the clip on the Pilot Vanishing Point, but this one is much less intrusive. It doesn’t tell me how to grip the pen.
The nib end of the pen is hidden behind a chrome dome, which swivels out of the way as you activate the mechanism.
The mechanism operates by twisting the two halves of the pen. I found the motion to be possible with one hand but easier with two. There’s a noticeable detent when you fully extend or fully retract the nib, which helps you know by feel when you’ve completed the motion. The mechanism feels weighty but smooth, not mushy. I enjoyed cycling it back and forth.
If you retract the nib and keep on twisting in the same direction, the rear of the pen comes off and reveals the converter, mounted in the nib unit, a little like in the Vanishing Point.
From there, unscrew the nib unit and out it comes. Lamy supplies a little gizmo to help you open the nib window and clean the pen, which I thought was a nice touch.
Everything fits together tightly and is well finished. I liked the ink window in the nib unit so you can see the converter.
So what about the writing experience? Well, once you get used to the size and weight — and you do — it’s actually wonderful, although very different to anything I’ve ever used before.
The weight is front-loaded, so you can let the pen do the writing. The satin finish means you don’t have to worry about slippage.
This is my first time using one of Lamy’s Z55 gold nibs, and wow, it’s quite special. There’s much more softness and bounce than I expected. I found line variation without much effort.
Under a loupe the nib is perfectly finished and aligned. It’s a looker, too, with the band of gold running down the centre slit. On the paper it runs very smoothly, and wet. I chose a fine, and I’d say it’s runs more to a medium.
After the initial shock of the size wears off — and shock it is — this is an incredibly enjoyable pen to own and use. That is, if you like big pens. The Dialog looks great: sleek, modern, designed. It’s beautifully engineered, as all high-end Lamy pens are. And despite the weight, it sits easy in the hand, and writes like a dream.
That’s my take on it. But here’s what’s really telling: you should’ve seen my five year old’s eyes light up when the nib emerged from the torpedo tube. Magic.