Taking the Parker Variant for a spin, with comparison to the Merkur Progress
I got my Parker Variant, close copy of the Merkur Progress, yesterday, and this morning’s shave gives me a chance to put it through its paces.
The Fine Classic, a favorite brush, worked up an easy lather from Tallow + Steel’s Dark shaving soap, a very fine soap with an intriguing fragrance. I took my time working the lather into the stubble, then picked up the Variant, which has some heft: 111 grams, compared with 99 grams for my Progress (which has a shorter handle—about 12 grams shorter, I would guess).
The shave was excellent and very like a Progress shave. I use the Progress at a setting of 2.5, so that’s how I set the Variant, and it worked like a champ. Three passes, no problems, BBS result. The Variant feels quite solid and well made. This, IMO, is a step up for Parker, and if they can maintain quality control (which in the past has been a serious Parker weakness), this razor will become quite popular.
The cap and baseplate are marked so that you can orient the cap correctly. Having such a mark is the standard way to indicate cap orientation, as shown in the photo below—left to right: iKon 102, Merkur Progress, Parker Variant.
The Progress and Variant are marked only so that the adjustment dial is set to zero when you tighten the razor. If you put the cap on in the opposite orientation (180º from the correct orientation), the indicator is off when you fully tighten the razor, but no real harm done. The 102, in contrast, is an asymmetric razor, and if the cap is no oriented properly the razor won’t tighten properly at all.
My Apollo Mikron finessed this issue by having no markings on cap or baseplate so that you could put the cap on in either orientation. The base of the handle, just above the tightening/adjustment knob, had two red dots, one on each side of the handle. You tighten the cap all the way and look to see which red dot is above the zero point—and that’s the red dot you use in making the adjustment. The razor threading is such that one of two red dots always works, and a glance at the zero location shows which red dot applies.
The Varieant, as you see, is a close copy (and a shavealike), but it’s not a slavish imitation. Note the difference in the bottom view. (The adjustment knob on the Progress is not a stock knob, but an after-market add-on.)
The Variant adds some drainage slots, which is probably a good idea although in fact the Progress is effectively clog-proof already. Note the large drainage channels (in both Progress and Variant) in the side view above.
Parker did a commendable job here. Now when will we see a Parker slant?