FPGeeks ScoreCard Aurora 88 Large

 

Review Specificaitons

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Specifications

Pen Class: Executive ($500 to $999)
MSRP: $550 to $900
Street Price:: $440 to $716

Body Material: Italian Black Resin
Nib Material: 14k Gold
Nib Size: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, Italic, Stub
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Post-able: Yes
Filling Mechanism: Piston with “Emergency Reserve”
Ink Capacity: 1.2 ml / 0.041 oz
Overall Weight: 26 g/ 0.92 oz
Cap Weight: 12 g / 0.43 oz
Body Weight: 14 g/ 0.49 oz
Overall Length Capped: 136 mm / 5.35 in
Overall Length Posted: 158 mm / 6.22 in
Body Length (not including nib): 118 mm / 4.65 in
Nib Length: 22 mm / 0.87 in
Body Length (including nib): 140 mm / 5.51 in
Cap Length: 63 mm / 2.48 in
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 15 mm / 0.59 in
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 20 mm / 0.79 in
Body Diameter at Ink Window: 14 mm / 0.55 in
Body Diameter at Blind Cap End: 11 mm / 0.43 in

If this pen were a movie, it would be…

The Aurora Encounter (1986)

Review Dealer Prep

Eric: 7 - The Aurora 88 Large is presented in an attractive black outer box, which sports a nice Aurora logo on the box top along with the image of a nib. A script font in both Italian and English reads: Italian Passion, Sign of Distinction. Removing the lid reveals tissue paper in an understated red tone surrounding the inner presentation clamshell box.

The presentation box is rectangular and covered with leather or a leather-like material. The Aurora logo is neatly embossed on the lid. The box is lovely but I see immediately that the leather (like) material is not perfectly put together at the box corners.

Lifting the lid reveals an elegant, cream colored interior and the Aurora 88 Large resting like Sleeping Beauty. You know immediately that this packaging will not be thrown away. Lifting the pen’s “bed” from the box uncovers the Aurora pamphlet (company information, instructions, warranty) and, in my case, a nice note stating that the nib has been “Binderized.”

FPGeeks Aurora 88 Large Dealer Prep

Dan: 7 – Unfortunately, my Aurora 88 didn’t come with it’s original box. Even if it had I assume it would be very different from the current packing that Eric received. For this section my score will default to Eric’s.

Review Filler Up

Eric: 8.5 - The Aurora 88 Large not only uses my preferred filling system, the piston, but it does so with an eye to both style and function. The ink window might be considered a bit on the small side, but I’m very glad that it is completely concealed by when the pen is capped. The piston mechanism works flawlessly and the pen fills with ink very nicely. The “hidden reservoir,” accessed by extending the piston when you’ve run out of ink, is ingenious. The piston turning knob is smooth and a tad too thin, making it almost seem difficult to turn.

Dan: 8.75Aurora has a slightly different take on the piston filling system. When you run out of ink in most piston filling fountain pens that’s pretty much it, you can’t write anymore. But the Aurora has something of a reserve built in. When you run out of ink in the 88 you can cycle the piston to the fully extended position to release enough ink to get through the rest of the day. The piston knob will then be in the extended position acting as a reminder that the pen needs to be refilled.

The operation of this ink reserve is quite simple. In the picture below you can see a tube protrude up into the barrel. Ink can only get to the feed through this tube. When the ink level is higher than the end of the tube the ink can reach the feed and nib. Once the ink level falls below the top of the tube the feed will no longer have access to ink. When you extend the piston it takes up the space below the tube and pushes the ink above the piston where it can flow into the tube and therefore to the feed and nib.

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Fill 'er Up

The operation is very simple and works exactly as it’s supposed to. I’ve run the 88 dry several times and was glad to have that little reserve. I do wish Aurora had made the piston knob act more like the original 88 where it didn’t extend as you cycled the piston. I realize it wouldn’t make a very good reminder if the piston knob stayed in the same position throughout its stroke, but I just prefer it to operate that way and is more reminiscent of the original 88. My only other qualm with this piston filler is that because of its reserve feature it seems like it’s nearly impossible to get the liquid inside the barrel completely clear when rinsing the pen. After several cycles the water comes out clear, but the little bit of liquid still left inside is tinted with whatever color was previously in the pen.

Review Test Drive

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Test Drive

Eric: 9 - As would be expected from a quality pen with a nib tested and adjusted by Richard Binder, the Test Drive was awesome. The Extra Fine nib could almost be called butter smooth, though it lays down a Fine (as opposed to Extra Fine) line. The pen performed everything I asked of it perfectly, both on the straightaways and in the twisties. I didn’t want the Test Drive to end.

Dan: 9 - I was extremely excited when I first received this pen. I tore the packaging open and didn’t hesitate to fill the pen. I didn’t go through any pre-fill routines or cleaning. I just filled it with ink right away. The action from the piston was smooth and nearly filled the barrel full on the first try. I cycled the piston again and got a full fill. The XF nib was the exact width I expected and the flow was great. I was very impressed with the way the pen felt and how well it was balanced. To say the least, I was ecstatic about my purchase.

Review Under the Hood

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Under the Hood

Eric: 7.25 - The Aurora 14kt Extra Fine nib, which is rhodium treated in my case, is an outstanding performer. Unfortunately, the artwork on the nib leaves much to desire. The nib is stamped dead-center with a rather plain looking “14K.” That hallmark is contained in an almost perfectly circular oval, which is itself surrounded by symmetrical scrollwork that is probably meant to resemble classic architectural lines, but instead looks chintzy. The name AURORA is nicely stamped at the bottom of the nib, but it doesn’t belong there. It should be front and center and proudly displayed.

I can only imagine that Aurora was going for a subdued or non-boastful look with this nib. But really, who puts 14K front and center? They could not have made a more generic looking nib had they tried. I know that Aurora makes their own nibs. Perhaps they sell these very same nibs sans the Aurora name to third-parties? (Wild conjecture, please disregard.)

Dan: 5.5 - I have a slightly older style 88 and I’m really conflicted about its nib. I love the way it writes and its shape. The shape is reminiscent of vintage flex nibs in the way that the tines are long and skinny. I think the long tines really improve the proportions of the nib. But, what I don’t like is the design of the imprint. It completely fails to display the stature of the pen that it’s in. The only thing saving it from me thinking it came from a cheap, Chinese knock-off is the ’14k’ stamped in the middle. I absolutely cannot stand the scroll work and this nib is dominated by it! Aurora didn’t even stamp their name on this nib. Thank God they at least do that on the current version. I just don’t get it. I would rather have the nib be completely blank than the design that’s on there.

Review Performance

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen Performance

Eric: 9.5 - It would be very, very difficult to improve the performance of my Aurora 88 Large. The pen does what you want, when you want, and how you want – every time you want it. It has zero flow issues, doesn’t even think about skipping or hesitating, and will write immediately even after 30 days of awaiting attention.

The one small complaint I have is that the pen tends to turn of its own volition in my hand as I write. I’d love to blame myself for this peculiarity, but as other pens (even those with Extra Fine nibs) do not have this tendency in my hand, I have to implicate the Aurora 88. I can’t be sure of the cause, but if I had to guess, I’d say the pen’s section makes a steadfast grip difficult either by virtue of its shape or smoothness (or both).

Dan: 7 - If you’re not familiar with Aurora’s ‘feedback’ that I mention in the Road Trip then I’ll try to do my best to explain it here. Normally, when I mention feedback I’m talking about a smooth nib that transmits the texture of the paper into my hand. The feeling I get from my Aurora is more than this. It’s not scratchy, but it’s not smooth. And it’s not due to a problem with the nib. I’ve examined it very closely many times. The tines are perfectly aligned. I can’t figure out what gives it that feel. This isn’t my preferred feel and I think it may be more of an acquired taste. I should mention that not every single nib comes from Aurora like this but enough have that many people are familiar with what I’m talking about. If you’re interested in getting an Aurora I would either try before you buy or buy from a retailer that allows returns because you may very well not like this feeling.

In Under the Hood I mentioned that the nib has long, skinny tines similar to those of vintage flex nibs. I should expand on this a bit. The nib is certainly soft and actually quite springy, but I wouldn’t call it flexible. You can get some line variation with moderate pressure, like going from an XF to a Medium. Again, I can’t say if all Aurora nibs are going to be like this.

After reading Eric’s Performance section it makes me quite envious of a Binderized 88!

Review Design Notes

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen

One available trip option of the Aurora 88 featuring a resin cap with gold plated clip and cap band.

Eric: 8.5 - The Aurora 88 Large is the epitome of classic fountain pen design. It is function wrapped in timeless beauty. I chose the chrome cap and chrome furniture option specifically because the AURORA name on the cap is displayed in block letters. Other models display the name in a cursive font that I find ill-matched to the pen’s design. The pen’s girth is generous, but could be slightly larger. The clip is beautiful. The smooth and shiny dome at the cap’s top seems like it could be improved, but I’m at a loss as to suggesting how. As with the original (vintage) Aurora 88, the band at the piston turning knob adds visual appeal. As previously mentioned, I particularly like the fact that the ink window is out of sight when the pen is capped. Under my fingers, the change in diameter of the section/grip feels steep, but that’s probably just me.

Dan: 8.25 – Did Eric just say the clip on this pen is beautiful? That’s gotta be a first. But he’s absolutely right. The clip is a juiced up version of what came on the original 1950′s 88 and flows better into the cap even though it’s slightly less streamlined. I think the design of the clip makes the entire pen seem more elegant.

Aurora offers the 88 Large in five different trim options. My particular pen is referenced as the 801 and features a gold plated cap and trim but I’ve also owned the 800 which has a resin cap with gold plated clip and cap band. One thing I really like about my older style 88 is that “AURORA” is written in all caps (just like in the quote) instead of the script as on their current pens. I just don’t care for that script font. Like the scroll work on the nib, this font they use comes of as cheap to me. Please let me know in the comments if I’m the only one that gets that vibe.

Other than the scroll work on the nib and the font used on the cap of current pens, I love the design of the 88.  I like the shape of the section, especially the lip near the nib. I also appreciate that they’ve kept the ink window hidden when the pen is capped just like on the original 88. Except for not having a hooded nib, this is a great modern interpretation of the 88.

Review Detailing

Eric: 8.5 - With the naked eye, it is difficult to find detailing imperfections on the Aurora 88 Large, but hand me my loupe and well we’ll go on a Flaw Safari. The cap and clip are very much in order. There appears to be a slight gap just below the cap’s dome where it meets the top of the clip, but the edge of Rhodia paper refuses to enter so the gap is very narrow. The topography between the pen’s barrel, the piston turning knob, and the ring that separates them is not perfectly level. This can easily be felt with fingertips. It’s close to level, very close, but not perfect. I note one minor blemish in the ink window, but only with the loupe. Just beyond the ink window, the threads for the cap are precision perfect. I find a couple of seam-like marks on the top edge of the section near the nib.

Dan: 9.25 - The quality of construction and detailing on my Aurora 88 Large is just outstanding. The gold plating on the cap is flawless. Every inch of plastic is polished to a wet-like gloss. Even the ink window is crystal clear. I can’t find any imperfections anywhere on this pen. The only thing I can find to complain about, and this is stretching it a bit, is that due to the method of construction of the ball on the clip I can barely make out two little seams. It’s just enough to let you know that they didn’t attach a perfect sphere to the end of the clip. The pictures below should show what I’m talking about.

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen DetailingAurora 88 Fountain Pen More Detailing

In addition to the sharp eye Aurora has for details they also know how to build a rock solid pen. There’s a big difference between the feel of the metal and plastic cap. I very much prefer the metal cap for both its feel and looks. The cap screws and posts securely to the pen and the clip is beefy enough that it shouldn’t have a problem staying clipped exactly where you want it. The piston is also a very solid unit. I never got the feeling that anything on this pen was delicate or that I had to be more careful with it than other pens, which isn’t something you can say about some other premium fountain pens.

Review 21 Minute Road Trip

Aurora 88 Fountain Pen 21 Minute Road Trip

Eric: 9.25 - This was a Road Trip that I did not want to end. The Aurora 88 Large is a joy. It takes you where you want to go in both comfort and style. The pen is a writing machine. There were no hard starts, no hesitations, no skips of any kind. Flow could not have been more perfect. My hand remained happy and relaxed throughout the Road Trip, never asking, “How much further?”

I had such a good time on this Road Trip that when I reached my destination, I still took the pen around the block a few times. I just didn’t want to stop writing.

Dan: 8.5 - Driving this pen was a blast. It feels great in the hand and great on paper, too. The heavy, metal cap balances the pen nicely. I never really felt my hand get fatigued during this Road Trip. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to hold pens far back on the section near the barrel and on the 88 that spot is pretty large in diameter, which suites me perfectly. I didn’t have any issues with grip either, but then my hands were clean and dry the entire the time so I’m sure that helped. The nib and feed performed like a fine tuned engine. I didn’t experience any hard starts or skipping but I did notice that after a few minutes the flow settled into a slightly drier state than I prefer. I also noticed that famous Aurora ‘feedback’ that I’ve read so much about on forums. Check out the Performance section for more details about that.

Review The Checkered Flag

Pros:
˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜
Filling system
Multiple trim options
Construction & quality
Cons:
˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜
Nib imprint design
On the Pricey Side

Famous Last Words:

Eric: It’s simple: If you’re looking for a pen to add to your collection or a pen with which to start a collection, the Aurora 88 Large absolutely must be on your short list.

Dan: The Aurora 88 Large is a really great fountain pen for someone looking to make their first big purchase or even for someone who’s made many big purchases and is just looking for something different. It’s high quality can compete with pens costing several times as much and comes with enough trip options to please most everyone. I would highly recommend this pen anyone. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


This pen was purchased for review.

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  • http://www.pretenseofknowledge.com/ Chris Meisenzahl (@speedmaster)

    Fantastic review and pics, thanks!

    • http://fpgeeks.com/ Dan Smith

      Thanks, Chris! I appreciate the comment.

  • http://monkeyphotomcr.blogspot.com/ John the Monkey

    Beautiful photography as ever – too much gold on the pen for my taste, but a looker nonetheless.

    Reading about how it writes, I can’t help feeling that writing samples would be a useful enhancement to the Awesome Reviews.

    • Mike

      I would like to also add my vote in for the inclusion of writing samples. Would only add to the awesomeness of the reviews.

  • http://roossinck.wordpress.com Stiggy Ray Cyrus

    Great review, guys; you probably touched on every point that I would’ve if I’d ever purchased one!

    There IS a way to get these things clean, including the emergency tank, if the 88 is built like the Optima. If I recall correctly, the nib unit unscrews like that of a Bexley Simplicity and a handful of other pens. If you unscrew the nib, you’ll have direct access to the chamber, and you can thread a paper towel (shape a corner of it like a cone and twist it in there like you were putting the nib unit back) to wick away the excess water/ink so that it’s dry. That’s the way that I used to do it with the Optimas I’ve owned in the past.

    Try it and see if it works for you! Hope it’s helpful!

  • Tanalasta

    Great review. The tooth of an aurora nib is from a rougher grit used in final polish. You can replicate the feel on any other nib by roughening it up on some micromesh (one or two grades from the finest one and a few strokes only). Conversely you can do what binder did and polish the nib on the finest micromesh grade into a smooth one. Personally I appreciate the tooth is inherent aurora and kept it

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  • jonro

    I have a modern large 88 (with resin cap and silver trim) and a nikargenta vintage 88. I’ve often thought that I I had to choose one pen to use on that proverbial desert island, it would be my modern Aurora 88. Like you said, this is one pen that just does everything right and has been very dependable for me during the two years I’ve owned it. I do wish it were just a drop wider and I really wish the Aurora were engraved on the barrel, like Aurora does with the Optima. Mine has an XF nib. I also found the feedback a bit excessive and had it smoothed a little by Mike Masayuma. I’ve gotta say that all four of my Auroras are great pens and among my very favorite writers.