While I'm on a Diplomat kick, I figured that in addition to the higher-end Diplomat Aero, I would go ahead and post a quick review of one of Diplomat's mid-tier offerings, the Esteem. The Esteem isn't stocked by many retailers in the United States, probably because it sits in the difficult $50-$75 price range. Though there aren't many pens at that price point for it to compete with, I'm not sure that the Esteem presents a compelling enough offering to warrant purchasing this pen over, say, an imported Pilot Custom Heritage 92, a Platinum 3776, or even a TWSBI 580.
The Diplomat Lineup
Before I get into the Esteem itself, it may be helpful to explain Diplomat's lineup a bit, especially since this is a brand few are familiar with (at least in the States). Diplomat's high-end pens are the Excellence and the Aero, both of which have gold-nib options. The mid-tier options include the Balance, the Esteem, the Optimist, and the Traveller. There isn't really an "entry-level" diplomat pen that you see regularly priced below $50, though occasionally you can find the Esteem on sale. Curiously, Diplomat seems to have done very little to promote its various models other than the Aero, or to differentiate between its other offerings.
As befits it's lower price point, the construction on the Diplomat Esteem feels less sturdy than the build on the Aero. A few things make me waffle a bit when deciding whether or not I like this pen: First of all, while the barrel is metal (either anodized brass or aluminum?), the grip section is plastic. This pen reminds me somewhat of the Retro 51 fountain pen, at a slightly higher price point.
Diplomat has done a nice job with the end-cap and finial on the Esteem. The back of the pen features a plain stainless end-cap, which helps the cap post nicely. The finial on the cap contains a "jewel" with Diplomat's propeller logo.
Nib and Writing Experience
While my experience with the Diplomat Esteem's nib wasn't quite as good as my experience with the Diplomat Aero, the fine nib on my Diplomat Esteem is still pretty darn good, if a touch dry. As I've noticed with JoWo nibs in the past, there's not much difference in terms of line width between the fine and the medium. If I had to make a recommendation, I would go with the medium, which is a much smoother writer. The nib on my Aero is one of the smoothest-writing pens in my collection.
Takeaways/Where to Buy
It's probably unfair for me to compare this pen to the Aero, because I like the former pen so much, and - to be frank - the Aero is intended to be a nicer, and more expensive, pen. That said, I personally would probably recommend saving a bit more money and holding out for the Aero rather than purchasing the Esteem. However, if you dislike the Aero's design, or prefer a pen with a more classic design, the Esteem may end up being a better entry point into the Diplomat brand.
The Diplomat Esteem is a bit harder to find at retail that the Diplomat Aero, which has become one of Diplomat's premium "flagship" pens. As with the Aero, the MSRP on this pen is too high, at $95. Street price tends to be in the $50-75, which is more reasonable, and Amazon again has the best prices on Diplomat pens. Occasionally, you will find the Diplomat Esteem on Massdrop at a discount, typically in the sub-$50 range.
Disclaimer: Massdrop provided me with this pen through their affiliate/referral program at no charge.