I really took a chance buying this Aurora 88 Nettuno. I haven’t quite gelled with the last couple of Auroras I’ve bought, and what’s more I’ve had less than perfect luck with the quality of its nibs and pens.
But for months and months I’ve been unable to get this pen out of my head, primarily because of its beautiful teal auroloide body. And, as these things go, I ended up buying it, with an italic nib.
Over the past year I’ve bought quite a few pens that I knew within a day weren’t right for me, despite having many positive qualities. I had the opposite experience with the Nettuno: I knew almost immediately that it was going to stick in my collection. And that’s not just because of its beauty.
But let’s start with the outside. The Nettuno is a limited edition, so it comes in an even more ridiculously large box than the usual Aurora. Open it up and the 88 looks miniscule, and indeed it’s not a huge pen. But for some reason it feels a lot more present in the hand than the Optima, which is surprising because literally the only difference in size is the rounded ends. This extra length makes for much better visual proportion.
The Nettuno’s star feature is the teal auroloide, which is truly special. It has the same brightness and vividness all the way around, and despite coming out blue on camera has a true blue/green colour tone that is very pretty indeed. It’s less green than the Pelikan Ocean Swirl, though. I really like this material, and it looks very classy and restrained here bracketed with a black section, black piston knob and black finial. The trim — cap band, ink window rings, clip and nib — are rhodium, which matches with the coolness of the teal colour better than a warm gold would.
I particularly like the cursive Aurora logo on the narrow cap band. It’s retro and restrained and looks much better than the thick capital letters on the Optima.
The rounded, ball-ended clip visually looks very in keeping with the rest of the curves on the pen, and again this is an extra point over the square-ended Optima.
The cap has the limited edition number etched in a curvy italic font and filled with white/silver paint.
It’s well finished, like every other part of the Nettuno. All edges are smoothed off, the polish is good, and the metal bands are evenly aligned all the way around.
The cap snugs down securely and comes off in less than 1.5 turns, which is great. The threads are squared off and not sharp at all under the fingers. Removing the cap also exposes the ink window, which is clear and a really good size. There is a step up to the barrel, but it’s angled away from your fingers and set back even further beyond the threads thanks to the ink window.
In the hand, the Nettuno is not huge, but after writing a few thousand words with it over the past few days, I can say it is comfortable. The 88 has Aurora’s trademark long, flared section in black resin. I found it really natural to hold, much like the Desiderata Soubriquet. Despite the piston fill mechanism, the 88 is a light pen. I think most of the filling mechanism is plastic. Filling is nice and smooth and the capacity is good.
The nib is Aurora’s in-house design, 18k gold with ebonite feed.
It’s a pretty design, covered in delicate curlicues, and the overall shape is very pleasing, with a narrow waist and swooping shoulders. It marries well with the design and looks the right size. Aurora’s nib units unscrew just like Pelikan’s, which is very handy.
I’m not quite sure how to review the writing experience, because I did a huge amount of work on the nib and feed. I didn’t particularly need to, mind you: the Italic nib that came with the pen had a little sweet spot, but generally was smooth (with Aurora’s trademark audible feedback), and wrote wet enough for most people. It laid a line of around 1.3 to 1.5mm, with only the occasional skip and hard start.
Unfortunately, I didn’t want a huge 1.5mm in this pen: I have an Italic Broad in my Pelikan Ocean Swirl and I don’t need to tie up another expensive pen with an impractical nib. I was hoping for something in the 0.8mm–0.9mm range, and I like my nibs to run wet.
The nib and feed are friction fit into the screw-in nib unit. With care I managed to pull them. I ran a brass shim through the nib, and I razored the feed quite a bit. Then I used a whetstone and nail buffing stick to take the sides of the nib down, gradually, and to add a final smoothness.
I’ve done this on nibs enough that I wasn’t too afraid of ruining it, but luckily I had no issues at any stage of the grind with roughness and burrs, misalignment or anything. It went very smoothly (if you pardon the pun). Cosmetically the nib could do with the sides tidying up, but it writes very nicely, and the full italic line variation is still crisp.
This is a beautiful pen — that much is obvious. It’s also a practical pen — ink window, quick-off cap, removable nib unit, big capacity. And it’s a comfortable pen — light, long section, no sharp edges. Now, thanks to a bit of work, it’s the kind of writer I like, too.
The only thing in question is the long-term durability (I’ve heard far too many stories of Auroras cracking, including one of my own), and the value for money. The Pelikan equivalent, the Ocean Swirl, retailed for around $500, or £325. This sells for $800, or around £540. Aside from the ink window and ebonite feed, the Pelikan is functionally identical. You’d have to really want the Aurora to pay that kind of premium. And, fact is, I did.