Review: Aurora Optima (365 Azzurra, Fine Nib)

 

Hand Over That Pen, please!

Katherine: I love the Optima’s aesthetic. I love the flat ends, a taper, but overall it’s short and kind of stubby. And I love stubby pens. Additionally, Aurora makes it in a range of gorgeous materials — including the limited edition pictured here. I’m partial to the gold and green, but have yet to find one at a price I’m comfortable with.

Pam: I really love the Optima’s shape and size.  Why you ask?  Because, to me, the Aurora Optima 365 is a gaudier Sailor Progear with the use of a wider, more ostentatious cap band.  I have hesitated in purchasing an Optima mostly due to the stock material used for the pen body and cap.  This limited edition material for the Optima made me eat my words.  It’s sooo pretty. The blues, teal and flecks of silver-white is pretty unique and fantastic.

Franz: Wow! That Azzurra is fantastic! Pam’s observation is correct that the Optima is similarly styled as the Sailor Pro Gear. However in the hand, the Optima is definitely larger and the section is longer. That Greek key cap band is quite nice to look at as well. I’ve observed that a lot of Italian pens use this design which is pretty cool especially on the vintage ones.

In the Hand: Aurora Optima (posted) – from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam
In the Hand: Aurora Optima (unposted) – from left to right: Franz, Katherine, and Pam

 

A Bit of History

The Aurora pen company was established in 1919 in Turin, Italy. Pretty cool to know that they are nearing their 100th year anniversary!

Just like what we learned about the 88 model in our review, the Aurora Optima model has been a part of their model lineup since the 1930’s. The vintage model had the same flat ends kind of style and the greek key cap band as well. The vintage Optima however had the same celluloid material for the whole pen unlike the modern one which has black cap finials, section, and piston knob. Also, the vintage Optima had a vacuum-filler instead of the piston-filler in the modern one.

The Optima that we know nowadays was redesigned in 1992. The Optima is offered in different colors, materials, and limited edition options. As long as you like the shape and style of the pen, there’s gonna be an Optima pen just for you. The Azzurra 365 is a limited edition of 365 units and Franz snagged one when it came out in 2017 from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith. As of March 2018, Dan still has a couple of these in his inventory.

Beautiful Azzurra celluloid engraved with Aurora’s full company name: Fabbrica Italiana di Penne a Serbatoio – Aurora

 

The Business End

Katherine: I’ve been surprised by the Optima nibs I’ve tried — they’re somewhere between a Japanese and a Western nib. Plus they have a wonderful smidge of feedback, reminiscent to me of Sailor nibs. Now that I’ve typed this all out… the Optima nibs feel like a middle ground between a Sailor nib and a typical Western nib in terms of both line width and feedback vs smoothness.

Pam:  I have been able to try both an Aurora Optima’s EF and F nib.  I have found Aurora’s nibs to be very consistent in line width and feel. The EF is more similar to a Japanese EF.  The F nib is more consistent with a Western EF. The nib is quite wet but then again, the ink itself is also quite wet. I really enjoyed the super smooth writing experience.  Sheeny inks would really shine with this nib.

Franz: I really love the nib design of the Aurora Optima and the shape is a traditional fountain pen nib. Surprisingly, I didn’t ask for a medium/broad nib from Dan but a fine instead. I’m glad I did because the fine nib is definitely lovely to write with. As Katherine said, there is a pleasant feedback while writing that I like especially on smooth paper like my Rhodia meeting notebook. The 18-karat nib isn’t really flexy nor is it marketed as a flexible nib but with just a little pressure, it does give my signature a little flair.

Franz’ writing sample on a Rhodia Meeting Notebook

 

Write It Up

Katherine: I haven’t measured, but this pen feels like a heavier Pro Gear. Maybe a little bigger? But if it is, not by much. I found it comfortable (and quite enjoyable) to write with for long periods of time.

Pam:  It’s a comfortable size pen for a variety of hand sizes.  For smaller hands, it would be worth it to post the pen.  For smaller sized hands, unposted is slightly better balanced and comfortable.  My thumb wraps around the step and threads of the pen, but I hardly notice them.  The step and threads aren’t sharp and the step is minimal making for a wonderful “no imprints” writing experience in my iron fist grip.

Franz: Let me just say that writing in my journal with the Optima was such a joy. The Optima is quite light compared to my usual Pelikan M800 and I have not experienced any fatigue at all. Both modes posted and unposted were very comfortable for me. The cap posts deeply onto the barrel and doesn’t affect the balance at all. I’ve already mentioned this but what I really love about the Optima is the lengthy section since I do grip pens farther back than others as seen in the hand comparison photos above.

 

EDC-ness

Katherine: A solid pen that works quite well as an EDC. And the cap takes 1.3 turns to uncap, which is pretty darn fast. I holds up quite comfortably to a life of being used to jot down quick meetings.

Pam:  The pen is a great size capped.  It should fit into a decent number of pockets.  The clip is strong and tight.  It should have no problem slipping in and out of shirt pockets. It took a bit more finagling for my white coat pockets with the thicker material. I kept it in my Sinclair case for a majority of my time with it.

Franz: I’ve been using the Optima at my workplace for a couple weeks now and it’s such a nice everyday carry pen. The ball clip fastens to my shirt pocket very securely and uncapping is fairly quick with less than one and a half turn. The fine nib was nice to use on the copier paper in the office too.

Something pretty cool with Aurora’s piston filled pens like the 88 and the Optima is their hidden ink reservoir. If you are running out of ink, just fully extend the piston down and a little bit more ink will be available to use hopefully until you get back home to refill your pen.

The black stem behind the feed is where ink is fed through. The piston has a hole that will fit around the black stem.
Piston midway onto Stem: When the piston goes over the black stem, a couple drops of ink underneath will be displaced and fed up to the stem.
When the piston knob is extended, it is a reminder for you to refill the pen.

 

Final Grip-ping Impressions

Katherine: All in all, I really like the Optima. I like the shape, the nibs are fantastic and they are made in beautiful materials. But, I find the MSRP quite high for the pen so I’ve been quite conflicted about purchasing one. As Pam mentioned earlier in the review, also remind me a lot the Pro Gears, though I don’t think the aesthetic is better or worse — just very different.

Pam:  I really enjoyed my time with the pen.  I enjoyed the nib more. This particular material is exceptional.  I know the price of the Aurora Optima reflect the celluloid material used for the pen but that alone isn’t enough for me.  That being said, if you can enjoy a beautiful modern celluloid pen with a fantastic nib, I would highly recommend the Aurora Optima.

Franz: I don’t have a lot of Italian pens in my collection but so far, Aurora has been winning my heart over. The Aurora Optima has been a pen model I’ve liked a lot and the 365 Azzurra pushed me to get one. For large-sized hands, I can definitely recommend the Optima and as mentioned earlier, there are lots of finishes that one can choose from. I think with the experience of the two ladies above, the Optima is also a good pen for small and medium sized hands as well. Plus, it’s a piston-filler which holds a lot of ink perfect for daily use.

A little food for thought to end this review, Optima is derived from the word optimus which stands for “Best”. Hmmm… is it the best pen ever? For me, the Optima has jumped into my Top 5 since I got it late last year. Not necessarily my Number One pen (Pelikan still FTW) but it’s up there. Now of course, best pens are very subjective! =)

Pen Comparisons

Closed pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari
Posted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari
Unposted pens from left to right: TWSBI Eco, Lamy 2000, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear Classic, *Aurora Optima*, Pelikan M805, Franklin-Christoph Model 31, and Lamy Safari

Pen Photos (click to enlarge)

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5 Comments

  1. I ordered one from Dan a while ago & it’s now shipping. After reading your review, I’m even MORE excited to get it! And your photos! <>

    1. Hi Jane! Glad you liked the review and photos! I clearly love this pen as well. So congrats on your new Optima! Woohoo! What nib size did you get?

  2. Great review of a pen I think is one of the great Italian pens of the last 50 years. Wonderful in both form and function, which the three of you brought out well. Kudos for an especially nice batch of photos, too! I love my Optimas…

  3. Sadly just received mine. Tried a few inks in it but it feels so dry. The inks don’t pop as they come out very light. Now considering sending it to Oxonian to get it adjusted as I don’t want to risk doing it myself!
    The colour is gorgeous though. I’m just currently not excited to write with it.

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