I have a fresh appreciation for Aurora’s pens. The 88 Nettuno has wormed its way into my heart, and I not only love the way it writes (which I take credit for) but the way it looks and feels in the hand.
But that’s a £500 special edition. Would I be equally enamored of a £130 “budget” pen, with a steel nib and converter?
Let’s find out. Introducing the revised 2019 Duo-Cart.
To cover the basics, without going into a history lesson, the Duo-Cart is a recreation of a vintage Aurora design, famed for holding two cartridges on a caddy. This one does not, but the name remains.
The retro theme continues in the choice of pastel colours available, but I picked classic Aurora black with chromed metal cap. It just looked nicest to me. I ordered mine from Iguanasell, and I paid the full retail price of £125.
The packaging is much nicer than I expected for a pen of this price. Nice solid case for the pen, cartridge and converter supplied, as well as a little bottle of Aurora black ink, all in a retro box adorned with old-school artwork.
The pen itself is pretty compact, slim, and not heavy. It’s shorter capped and uncapped than a Visconti Van Gogh, for example.
The design is more than a little reminiscent of a Parker 51, with a slip-on cap and a hooded nib, but Aurora has definitely not made a homage. The ends are cut square, with an inset metal coin at the end of the barrel.
The nib is hooded, but it’s not some tiny little spike like on the Wing Sung 601, the Kaco Retro or the original 51. The Duo-Cart is clearly its own design.
Looking at the profile of how the nib and feed fit into the section, it’s really well executed, too.
Everything screws together nicely. The folded metal clip is very springy and works.
The cap is well finished with a stamped stripe pattern and AURORA MADE IN ITALY around the band. The only downside is that it doesn’t give any positive feedback when you cap it (it stays in place through friction alone), although from my tests it actually seats positively and doesn’t come off unless you want it to. All is well.
Although the Duo-Cart is a smaller pen than I’d normally use, it’s not that narrow at the section, and with no threads or lips to worry about, I found it very comfortable.
Most importantly, the nib is great. Without any flushing, mine immediately wrote a nice wet medium line, exactly as I would have hoped from its M designation (as far as I can tell, the Duo-Cart is only available in one width). Under a loupe, the tines were aligned perfectly, the feed was straight, and the tipping was nicely polished. I occasionally found myself rotating the pen because I didn’t have a good view of the nib, which naturally stopped the pen writing so well, but I corrected that in time.
In terms of writing characteristics? There’s a little tooth, but not as much as the other Auroras I’ve used (which I always put on a par with Sailor for feedback). Flow is good, although I confess I’ve only used it with Herbin inks so far, which I find wet. The nib is a nail. No line variation. And no drying out when capped, so far.
With a comfortable grip, slip cap and willing nib, the little Aurora makes a great meeting note-taker.
Clearly, the Duo-Cart is not a premium pen, with exotic materials and finishing. Look closely and you won’t find the care with edges and threads and surface treatments that you’d get with a high-end writing instrument.
Nor is the Duo-Cart a budget pen. You won’t throw a £125 pen in your shopping cart with the same impulse as you would a £28 TWSBI Eco, or the £10 Kaco Retro with its own hooded nib.
And there is a lot of competition around the just-over-£100 mark. Lamy’s 2000, for example (which proves you can get a piston filler and gold nib at this price point) plus various small-batch makers like Franklin-Christoph.
But I think the Duo-Cart just about carves out a niche for itself here. For a start, it’s a truly functional pen, with a bit of history from a storied manufacturer. It’s made in Italy, too. The design is that bit different, and I expect that many will fall in love with the pastel shades it comes in. And the packaging is premium enough to reassure you that you didn’t just waste your hard-earned on a budget pen.
If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it shouldn’t. I’ve reached for the Duo-Cart over more expensive pens several times already.