Pen Class: Premium ($200 to $499)
Street Price: $300.00
Body Material: Metal with Black Matte Finish
Nib Material: 14k Gold, Two-Tone
Nib Size: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad, Oblique Medium, Oblique Broad
Cap Type: N/A
Filling Mechanism: Cartridge/Converter
Ink Capacity: Cartridge: 1.4 ml / 0.05 oz // Converter: 0.8 ml / 0.03 oz
Overall Weight: 48 g / 1.69 pz
Cap Weight: N/A
Body Weight: N/A
Overall Length Retracted: 140 mm / 5.51 in
Overall Length Extended: 155 mm / 6.10 in
Nib Length: 16 mm / 0.63 in
Diameter w/o Clip: 13.5 mm / 0.53 in
Diameter w/Clip: 15.5 mm / 0.61 in
If this pen were a movie, it would be…
Don’t Knock the Twist (1962)
Dan: 8.25 – Lamy has a done a great job with the presentation of the Dialog 3. It’s minimal but appropriate for a pen of this price. They don’t include a lot of the fluff that other pen manufacturers do. When I first saw the box and it’s plain white, cardboard outer sleeve, I thought Lamy had dropped the ball. Removing the sleeve revealed a black, thick cardboard box with LAMY embossed in glossy letters on the front. When I removed the top of the box I could see a single blue Lamy cartridge and a black and gray checkered cloth covering something that was dark brown. Things were starting to look good.
I pulled back the cloth and was presented with the top of a wood grain case with the silver LAMY outline logo. Things were starting to look real good now.
I opened the case, which had some resistance due to the magnetic closure, and saw the Dialog 3 surrounded in black and wood grain goodness. This packaging wasn’t just appropriate for the Dialog 3, it was perfect. There’s no chance I’ll ever get rid of it.
Eric: 7.25 - Like you, Dan, I was skeptical about the packaging until I saw the wood grain, magnetic closure clamshell. It’s both minimal and sleek, and I liked it without reservation for a full minute before the thought of a pen coffin popped into my head.
The coffin image wasn’t a deal breaker as I simply decided to somehow equate the Lamy Dialog 3 with the current vampire craze and I was happy.
However, with the exception of my TWSBI Micarta (which is apparently bulletproof at 20 paces), I don’t like my $100-plus pens to touch anything harder than my hands. The Dialog 3 is no exception. I don’t believe the case/coffin can scratch the pen, but why take a chance with a pen at this price? I’d like to see a soft and comfy pillow in the pen case (top and bottom) that would swathe the pen in coziness.
Dan: 7 – The Lamy Dialog 3 uses the same proprietary T10 cartridge found in all their other pens, as well as the Z26 converter, which is included with the pen. The pen comes with the converter installed and I decided to leave it that way. Nothing against the cartridge of Lamy Blue, but I’ve used it plenty of times and wanted to try something else.
To fill the pen you need to access the converter by unscrewing the barrel, and then unscrewing the nib unit. To make this process easier, Lamy has knurled a portion of the nib unit to allow a better grip when removing it.
If you’re familiar with the Pilot Vanishing Point then you’ll have a good idea of the nib unit of the Dialog 3. The biggest difference is that the Dialog’s nib unit is much beefier than the Vanishing Point’s and the nib isn’t nearly as long, which makes filling from a J. Herbin bottle a possibility. Filling the unit was as simple as operating the converter. With a couple of swipes of a Kleenex I was good to go.
I know the Dialog 3 uses the same cartridge and converter as other Lamy pens but the filling process seemed more satisfying with this pen. It could be because the filling process is more involved. There’s more ritual to it. For me, using a fountain pen is definitely about ritual and experience. I find breaking the pen down into more pieces and handling the core of the pen (the nib unit) makes the experience more engaging.
Eric: 7.25 - Ok, it’s an expensive cartridge/converter pen. But somehow, it works for me. Filling the converter is like playing with the inner-workings of a beautiful machine. Removing the nib unit gave me the feeling of pulling the engine from a hot little Porsche Boxster. Not that I’ve ever done that, but this is likely as close as I’ll ever get. The nib unit is robust and could be a pen itself.
One thing I don’t care for – and I’ve seen it in other pens – is that all but a very small portion of the converter is hidden when the converter is in the nib unit. Knowing whether or not you filled the converter is impossible (and rather important if you’re filling from a J Herbin bottle). I got around this by removing the converter and filling it with a syringe.
Dan: 9.0 – I could not wait to try this pen. I’d been interested in it since it first came out in 2010 but wasn’t crazy about the original palladium finish. Once I saw it in matte black I knew it would only be a matter of time before I’d have one in my possession. The thing that pushed me to actually buy it was the price increase from $240 to the current price of $300. I purchased mine the day before the increase and I’m very glad I did.
The packaging of the pen left a great first impression on me. I actually have the wooden case sitting on my desk with the Dialog 3 resting in it. Filling the pen was a good experience too. Extending and retracting the nib is a satisfying action, but not nearly as satisfying as writing with the EF nib that came with it. It’s incredibly smooth and not once did I experience a skip or a hard start during the initial writing test. I walked away from this Test Drive wanting craving more.
Eric: 6.0 - There’s something satisfying about twisting a smooth metal rod and having a fountain pen nib jump to the ready. The nib wanted to write and I did not stand in its way.
The pen wrote immediately and wrote well. The first thing I noticed was the pen’s weight. It’s a heavy pen. It’s also a thick-ish pen. My thumb and index fingers had to remain on opposite sides of the pen just to maintain grip and balance.
The pen never hesitated and never skipped. It went where I asked and it wrote every time. But I was not convinced I could find the writing experience comfortable. I decided to search for comfort during the Road Trip.
Dan: 8.25 – The 14k gold, bi-color nib of the Lamy Dialog 3 comes in 6 grades: EF, F, M, B, OM (oblique medium), and OB (oblique broad). I chose the extra fine and was very impressed with it. Some of you may be reading this with a puzzled look on your face and wondering why I didn’t go with a broad or something wide enough that I could stub later. Well, the reason is because EF nibs are my daily nibs. It’s what I use for general writing and especially cursive. This EF nib is one of the smoothest I’ve ever written with. It ranks up there with other EF nibs that have been tuned and smoothed by professionals. And this is a factory, untouched nib.
In addition to its writing qualities I also really like its aesthetics. It has the traditional, simple Lamy shape, but the gold strip along the nib slit goes a long way in adding some much needed eye candy to their nibs. I never would have thought that such a little addition could make that big of an impact.
Eric: 8.5 - I’m generally more a fan of nibs that look like nibs, with shoulders and a typical nib shape, but I like the Dialog 3 nib. I like it a lot. Aesthetically, it’s large enough to look like it means business and the fact that it’s two-tone means it will attract attention. I even like the folded-over in box like fashion shape. This is one of the most appealing non-traditionally shaped nibs I’ve seen.
I was not disappointed with the nib’s function, either. Being an extra fine, I expected at least some scratchiness, but I was mistaken. This is one smooth nib.
Dan: 6.0 – Initially, this pen started out writing incredibly well and continued to do so as long as I wrote with it every day, or at least every other day. The longer I owned it the more I would let it sit as I played with new pens. This is when I started noticing an issue with the Dialog 3.
I noticed the flow was much drier if I let the pen sit unused for as little as two days. If I let it sit for four days or more the pen would no longer write! At this point I would have to remove the nib unit and force ink into the feed by extending the piston inside the converter. This is a serious issue that should not be happening in a pen of this price, quality, and brand. If I didn’t neglect the Dialog 3 and at least wrote even a few sentences with it each day, it would write just fine.
Eric: 8.0 - The pen rarely disappointed when it came to writing. It never hesitated and never skipped. I could get it to be a hard starter if I let it sit unused for one week. But to get the ink flowing again, I never had to resort to dismantling the pen and forcing ink into action with the converter.
I don’t personally believe that a pen in this price range should be a hard starter after only one week of non-use, especially as I store my pens on the horizontal. Then again, dealing with some drying-out issues might be the price that must be paid for the non-capped, twist-action goodness that is the Dialog 3.
Dan: 7.5 – The Lamy Dialog 3 was designed my Franco Clivio, who also designed the Lamy pico range of pens. Just based on these two pens, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. The shape of the Dialog 3 is just a simple cylinder with a chrome disk covering the nib opening and a round end opposite the nib. There’s nothing flashy or extravagant about the pen’s design and that’s precisely why I like it so much.
There are two parallel lines that run the length of the pen and at first, I couldn’t figure out why they were there other than to provide visual appeal by breaking up the black emptiness of the barrel. But, operating the twist mechanism a few times helped me realize that they provide some visual feedback to let you know when to stop twisting the barrel when retracting the nib. You won’t hurt the pen if you keep twisting, you’ll just start removing the barrel. The other neat thing about the two lines is that they line up perfectly with the edges of the clip when viewed directly from above. It’s a neat effect that I didn’t notice right away.
However, there is a big difference between when the nib is extended and when it’s retracted. The view is completely changed and is accomplished by twisting the barrel approximately half a turn. Several things happen when you start to twist the barrel. First, the chrome disk that covers the nib opening begins to move. As you start to encounter more resistance in the twisting motion the disk has completely vanished, the nib starts to extend, and the clip begins to retract. We’ve only moved about an 1/8th of a turn at this point and as we approach a quarter of a turn of the barrel the nib has poked it’s head out a couple of millimeters. The last quarter turn of the barrel quickly pushes out the nib and ends with a solid ‘click’ to let you know things are in place and you’re ready to write.
As I mentioned in the Performance section, this pen has an issue with the nib drying out if left unused for a few days. This is most likely due to a poor seal of the chrome door covering the nib. Aesthetics and functionality both contribute to the Design score. While aesthetics alone could have easily scored a 9, the failure to create a strong seal brought the overall score down.
Eric: 9.0 - The design of the Dialog 3 is nearly a masterpiece. There is so much to like about the pen aesthetically, that I worry I might be holding it up to too high a standard when it comes to function.
The fact that the twist-action extends the nib is amazing in and of itself. Add to that the fact that it also moves the nib-covering dome aside and lowers the clip into a slightly more streamlined position – and you have some crazy voodoo magic going on here.
I very much like the click at the end of the barrel rotation when extending the nib. I only wish it had the same click-and-stop feature when retracting the nib. Yes, the lines on the pen give you an indication as to when you should stop retracting, but even with those lines, half the time I over turned the barrel and was forced to reverse course. I’m not a brute. I don’t have the “fix everything with a hammer” gene and I know how to work with delicate objects. Still, I could not get used to closing the Dialog 3.
Dan: 9.0 – The matte black finish is exquisite, but I question its durability in the long run. The only reason I say that is because when I first bought the pen it was completely coated in that black finish. But as I’ve used it, I’ve noticed that there is one small spot were it’s starting to wear away.
I’ve examined it closely and it appears the tolerance between the nib unit and the hole in the barrel where the nib unit slides through is so tight that the black coating is just too thick and is being worn away. Such close tolerances actually speaks volumes of the quality and control that Lamy is able to achieve in this pen. When products are manufactured with such tight tolerances, like the Lamy Dialog 3 is, it makes them feel much more solid. You get an even better sense of its quality when you operate the mechanism. It’s not soft or spongy but instead very mechanical and satisfying. When you extend the nib the barrel locks into place with a solid “CLICK!”
One of the many great things about the Lamy Dialog 3 is that because of its material and manufacturing process there is no evidence of the manufacturing process left behind. There’s no flashing anywhere because there’s no injection molded parts (at least none that are visible). There are no machine marks because they’ve either been sanded smooth or hidden by the matte black coating. Lamy has gone to great lengths to make this pen look as good as it writes.
Eric: 9.25 - Lamy has achieved near perfection with attention to detail on the Dialog 3. No evidence of the manufacturing process can be found. All tolerances are very tight. The pen feels good to hold and operates with what can only be called bravado.
As Dan mentions, however, I question how long the black matte finish with remain completely intact. If the finish is easily worn, it’s definitely a deal breaker.
Dan: 7.5 – I think Lamy is the Mercedes Benz of fountain pens. They’re both German, they both have class out the wazoo, and with a slight depression of the right pedal can turn into a raging lunatic. However you’d like to drive it, the Lamy will comply. I started off relaxed, just writing down random thoughts in a nice, readable cursive style. I’m not sure if it was the music I was listening to (Metallica, Klaypex, NiT GriT,…) or the awesomeness of the nib but I started getting into some pretty wild flourishes, loops, zig zags and doing donuts all across the page! I think the last time I had this much fun with a pen was when I was using vintage flex. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on this trip.
During that whole time I never experienced a hard start, skip, or scratch. The nib and feed performed flawlessly. The Lamy Dialog 3 is a bit heavier than most other pens I’m used to and when combined with its larger diameter “section”, I could feel a little bit of fatigue starting to creep in near the end of a 12 minute cursive session. Due to the size of the barrel I probably should have opted for a Bold nib and ground it to a stub that would be used for writing only in upper case. I think it would be better suited to that type of writing because it feels like I have less control during cursive. Keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to changes in the barrel diameter.
One thing that may annoy most people is the clip and it’s placement during writing. If the clip of the Vanishing Point annoys you then I don’t think the Dialog 3 is going to fix anything. The clip on the VP doesn’t bother me and neither did the one the Dialog 3. In fact, I was glad to have it because my forefinger rests against it and I was able to reproduce the same grip quickly and easily. I could also very easily tell if I was starting to rotate the pen while writing.
Eric: 5.0 - Uff, what a drag. I find the Lamy Dialog 3 far too heavy for long writing sessions and far too “thick” to be held comfortably for extended periods. Both the weight and girth are noticeable immediately, but I didn’t find either to be troublesome until about five minutes into the Road Trip – at which point they became irritating and un-ignorable.
The pen performed extremely well. There was never a hesitation and never a skip. The nib was smooth and the ink flowed perfectly. If you like heavy and thick pens, you’ll probably consider the Dialog 3 a grail pen. If you don’t, stay away.
Can fill from a J. Herbin bottle
more than once
Clip may be bothersome
May be too heavy
May be too thick
Famous Last Words:
Dan: The Lamy Dialog 3 is a great fountain pen. Heck, it’s an awesome fountain pen! But it’s not the Lamy I’d recommend to someone. That title still belongs to the Lamy 2000. As great as the Dialog 3 is, I just don’t think it’s a $300+ pen. I didn’t think it was a $240 pen until I heard about the price increase. This is a pen that you splurge on as a treat to yourself.
Eric: In my mind, there’s nothing about the Lamy Dialog 3 that warrants an MSRP of $375. I don’t even think it’s worth the $300 street price. If you’re absolutely gaga for the design and/or the twist-action (as I was prior to having used the pen), then the Dialog 3′s previous street price of $240 might have been worth it. Maybe.
Make no mistake, the pen is gorgeous. But I highly recommend that you test drive one before purchasing or that you have a very clear understanding of the retailer’s return policy.