The modern Kaweco Dia2 is a medium-sized pen made from high-quality black resin that epitomises a retro style quality and class that echoes the company’s traditions and innovation.* It is somewhat incredible to think that the Kaweco Dia has been around for almost nine decades; albeit in a variety of forms. However, notwithstanding the variations, the form factor of the original design is very much, indeed, unmistakeably present and recognisable. More of that later.
Kaweco is a truly historic German pen manufacturer that commenced production in 1883 in the city of Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg, where it remained until closure in 1980. Then in 1994 the brand was revived by pen enthusiast Michael Gutberlet, but in the city of Nuremburg in Bavaria, where it has thrived since building on solid design and top quality production standards.
The Kaweco Dia is a venerable model that harks back to mid-1930s, which of course was a very difficult period for designers and artists in Germany. 1933 marked the demise of the Bauhaus movement in Germany and a much more nationalistic and traditional emphasis in art and design, and a period when many leading designers and artists left the country for their own safety. The Kaweco models and their manufacture retain that spirit of tradition and innovation that is the hallmark of engineering and product quality. It would be spurious to attribute a Bauhaus legacy to the original or new Dia, but the pens are certainly in a strong German tradition typified by DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung: the German Institute for Standardization) standardisation and rationality and no-nonsense functionality. The Dia, old and new, are made for writing, and quintessentially look like a classic fountain pen.
In the 1920s and 1930s Kaweco pens would have been produced on machine tools that were powered by direct current motors and noted for ‘the complexity of their designs and the degree of flexibility the machines were capable of’ (American historian Gary Herrigel, 1998). The modern Kaweco is produced in manufactories typified by computer numerically controlled machine tools and injection moulding of plastic resins and then brought to assembled and finished in Nuremburg. The ‘new’ Kawecos draw on the legacy of over a century of pen design and tradition. Continuity of strong technical skills and engineering traditions links the two models.
The Pen in Itself
The pen comes in a plastic sleeve inside a lovely art deco tin. Nestled in a foam insert, with a small international cartridge the pen is accompanied by a postage stamp fold-out history of company and a Kaweco logo sticker to use, or not, as you please. The packaging says: quality, class and tradition. The pen is, in my opinion, “medium-sized”. Sleek and shiny black-bodied it is a mainly plastic model but with aluminium and brass parts that give it a comforting feel of solidity in the hand. (This subjective classification of size is based on it being very similar (95%) to the typical comparative yardstick of the Lamy Al-star’s 138mm length and 13 mm girth.)
The pen cap and body finials feature the legendary tricuspid Kaweco logo as well as a knurled band on the cap and end of the body. The latter is reminiscent or an acknowledgment of the original Dia’s piston filling mechanism. Both the cap and body knurling are fixed. The cap comes off in just over one complete turn. The cap features a sturdy chrome-plated brass clip and the classic two decorative rings, also in chrome, and at 180o to the clip is the legend: Kaweco Dia. (A slightly pricier gold plated fixtures Kaweco Dia2 is also available.) Can’t see this clip failing and the pen slipping out of a shirt pocket.
Inside the black plastic body is a brass threaded fitting to engage with the fixed (glued?) aluminium end of the section. The metal fitting gives weight and durability to the nib section. The section is concave and comfortable and the threads on it are comfy to the touch. The section ends in a Bock-made but Kaweco #5 nib unit that is compatible with, and interchangeable with Kaweco Sport nib units. The wider version of the #5 nib made by Bock, and known as a 076 nib unit, looks much better proportioned in the Dia2 and that is what was used in this review.
How it Feels
The pen typically comes with a small international cartridge but takes a standard international converter. As with other Kaweco models you would have to add its branded converter to your purchase of the pen. The pen feels solid, substantial and comfortably balanced in the hand. It all works very efficiently; and it is neither too heavy, nor too light, very much just right, a Goldilocks’ pen.
Overall impressions are of a very solid, well-made and reliable pen; as well as the look and feel of a much more expensive pen model.
Comparisons and Contrasts
For me this is a medium-sized pen. It has that fit in the hand and compares well to similar sized pens. I compared it to a piston-filler Sailor Professional Gear Realo and it certainly looks a good match to it, although the Japanese 21k gold nib equipped pen is five times the price of the Kaweco Dia2.
|Pen||Length (mm)||Diameter (mm)||Uncapped Length (mm)||Weight (g)||Uncapped Weight (g)|
|Sailor Professional Gear Realo||134||13.4||118||21.5||12.25|
|Kaweco Dia (1935 vintage)||115||10.5||108||11.4||7|
Note: The weight of these pens included converters plus an ink load. So there may be a slight ‘discrepancy’ from official figures for the different pens.
The inclusion of the Kaweco Dia from the 1930s is to highlight the continuity in the design form’s traditions. Both are very definitely Kaweco. The 1930s Dia is a pen made for the woman writer and this example is monogrammed: Hedy Henkel. Despite the differences in size you can clearly see the continuity in form albeit the vintage model has lost one of its cap rings and the position of the name is on the body rather than on the cap as in the Dia2.
As noted above this Kaweco Dia2 was fitted with a Bock 076 steel nib in medium. The converter was filled with Kaweco Royal Blue, a quite saturated and wet blue with a slightly purple hue. I used the Dia2 to pen a few pages of a letter to a German friend and also to a friend in Cobham. The pen felt comfortable in the hand and the nib effortlessly delivered a consistent line to the 90 gsm paper.
Also gave a run on some Made for Ink 120gsm off-white paper. As my handwritten sample observes: the pen and ink are a winning combination. It feels, looks and writes like a very classy pen on a very classy paper.
This is a well-made pen which is a joyful combination of tradition and innovation. The injection moulded plastic of the pen looks as good as a precious resin bodied pen or a Sailor Professional Gear Realo. The metal parts and well-engineered and constructed finished pen show attention to detail, quality and function. The pen fills the hand and feels comfortable and it writes exceptionally well. You can buy the chrome Dia2 for £75 to £90 from UK pen sellers. The gold plated fixture version comes with a £15 premium on top. A Kaweco converter is about £5. That is excellent value for money; indeed, a real bargain for a pen of such overall excellent quality.
The Kaweco Dia2 looks, functions and works perfectly. This is a lovely pen, very definitely a Goldilocks’ pen – just right in every way: the shape, look and feel, weight and length in the hand, the writing experience.
Disclaimer: The pen was loaned from Kaweco but the review was not influenced by expectation of payment or favour. However, all the usual subjective caveats and prejudices apply.
*Note: Tradition and innovation are never zero sum games or dialectal opposites; rather they are interdependent variables. Innovation is a typically development on tradition. In reality, for all revolutions and innovation to move forward they need to be grounded in frictioned contact with tradition.