Merkur Progress adjustable is one of those controversial razors that people either love, and it works for them, or it doesn’t, and they hate it. It is a razor that has been around over 60 years first introduced in 1955 and gone over many changes. Why so much fuss about one adjustable razor you might ask? Well, it has had many problems during its time while giving a superb, efficient shave. But let me elaborate on this so keep reading.
+ Adjustable razor
+ Comes in two sizes
+ Suitable for all types of hair
– Some design issues
- Merkur Progress is an adjustable safety razor. It means that you can go from very mild shave to very aggressive by turning the knob. Read more about it in the design section
- There are two handle lengths. The standard model (M500) and the long-handled model (M510)
- Comes only in a chrome finish
- Feels slippery occasionally no matter which handle you use
- It is a two-piece safety razor. This makes it easy to switch the razor blades
- It is pricey compared to many other safety razors. But adjustable razors are on average more expensive than regular ones
Merkur packs it razors into very boring looking boxes. While the cardboard has a solid feel about it and everything is packed snugly into the box the overall look is still below what you would expect. It is not a big deal for many as you are more interested in how the razor shaves than how it is delivered to you. But should you consider this as a gift you might want to repackage this. This is, of course, a purely subjective opinion of mine. I’m sure many will find the package fine.
Merkur Progress M510 (the long-handled model) has almost perfect dimensions for me. The standard model M500 feels short for my hand. I find that razor with length 3.5” / 9.5 cm and more and that weigh around 3.4 oz / 100 g work best for men. They are comfortable to use and give nice tactile feedback.
Weight (M500): 3.28 oz / 93 g
Weight (M510): 3.63 oz / 103 g
Length (M500): 3.47″ / 8.8 cm
Length (M510): 4.12″ / 105 cm
Made in Germany
How Does It Feel In Your Hand
The smaller model M500 has a handle which is only 3″ / 7.6 cm long so it may feel awkward for a person with bigger hands. The longer handle in the model M510 is 3.7″ / 9.4 cm and is a better option for them.
Progress comes with a chromed hexagon-shaped handle. Unfortunately, this doesn’t improve the grip, and it still gets quite slippery. While chromed handles will always be more slippery compared to most disposable plastic or cartridge razors, some safety razors have better grip than others. Handles with good knurling, for example, provide better friction and they get less slippery. There are some tricks to improve your grip though when using the Progress. For example, you can modify your hold on the razor by resting it on a little finger while shaving. Or rub your hands with alum block. This improves the friction between your fingers hence your grip a lot. But I would still counsel against using this razor when showering. And take care when using it while your hands are covered with lather.
Both M500 and M510 are heavy razors. If you happen to have 16 U.S quarters lying around, hold them in your hand, and you get the idea how much the standard model weighs. Now add two quarters more, and you get the weight of the long handled version. This would be an issue if this razor weren’t adjustable. More weight means the razor tends to be more aggressive but with the adjustment mechanism, you don’t have this problem. Just dial down the aggression with the knob.
What About The Design
In the introduction, I said this razor tends to split users opinions. There are a few who swear they will never buy or try Merkur Progress again. And then there are plenty of wet shavers who use it as their main safety razor and have a few extra in the drawer just in case the one they use will break. So why such a dichotomy?
It comes down to the way this razor is designed and made. It is two-piece, zamak made safety razor that has a closed comb. It is adjustable safety razor meaning you can adjust how aggressive you want the razor to be. To change the aggressiveness, you have to turn the white plastic knob. You have numbers going from 1 to 5 each correlating with different level of aggressiveness. The mechanism is well made and works great.
The knob is made out of white-yellow plastic. And that is the first reason why many dislike this razor. I presume it should remind us ivory? But the result is one ugly knob which ruins the aesthetics of the whole razor for me. And this is just not my personal preference mind. There is an entire market out there for replacement knobs for the progress.
Then there is the handle. The handle has an alignment dot that should be aligned after assembly with the adjusting knobs symbol 1 (instructions show you to align it with nr 0 which is missing on the handle). This, however, is sometimes not the case, and it gets aligned in between + and number 1. There is an easy fix though. There are videos about this on youtube should you have this issue.
And then there is the razor head. When assembling the razor you have to make sure the cap is inserted to the base-handle piece the correct way. There are “witness marks” that have to be properly aligned. Otherwise, the dot on the handle will be misaligned. But as already mentioned this can also happen with correct alignment.
Merkur Progress is a solid razor. It feels sturdy in your hand. There are no rattling noises, loose or shaky parts, and the chrome finish looks and feels nice. If you are okay with the knob design and it doesn’t bother you that dialer knob can be misaligned by a fraction after assembly then there really isn’t anything wrong about it. I am a huge fan of adjustable DE safety razors, and this is one of my favorites.
Will It Shave?
This is the part where Progress shines in my opinion. This is great because I wouldn’t care for a razor that looks pretty but shaves like an old rusted cutter. It comes with one Merkur default razor blade. It may have some design issues, but the main mechanism is well made. Since 2016 there have been rarely blade misalignment problems as Merkur/Dovo started using new molds.
You can start with mildest setting 1, and contrary to Merkur Futur, for example, you really will get a mild yet efficient shave. By turning the knob towards a higher number, you will get a more aggressive closer shave. This is useful when you have heavy beard growth or travel much. It is more comfortable to shave your longer stubble with a more aggressive setting and then finish the shave on a lower setting. Progress can handle course as well soft whiskers and deliver baby butt smooth every time
Comparison: Merkur Progress vs Parker Variant
Adjustable razors have lately attained new popularity. Many of the new companies that produce razors also manufacture adjustable models. Take Vikings Blade or Rockwell for example. One of the arch rivals of Progress is Parker Variant adjustable which is made based on Progress. Both are considered by many the best adjustable safety razors in this price range and are similar.
Parker Variant is 4″ / 10 cm which is longer than the standard model M500 but a little bit shorter than M510. But it is heavier than both of them, weighing 3.8 oz / 110 g.
Both razors are adjustable and have five settings. Many users rank Variant little bit more aggressive because you can unscrew the dialer further after setting 5 giving you in reality even more aggressive razor. This is not how the manufacturer has intended it to be used howbeit. While you can make it more aggressive, the question is, should you? Setting 5 is enough for most men with course beard.
What makes Variant stand out are some of the resolved design issues Parker has. The variant has better grip and also comes with metallic dialer knob. It also has different finishes, not just plain chrome. You can choose between graphite, rose gold and satin (matte color)
To summarise the key differences:
- Parker Variant adjustable is almost the same length as the longer handled model M510
- Parker Variant is more massive than both Progress models
- Progress is considered to be a little bit less aggressive. But both are adjustable razors going from setting 1 to 5
- The Variant has resolved some of the design issues the Progress has. It has a better grip and more aesthetic looking dialer knob
- Progress comes only in chrome finish while Parker variant comes in three different finishes
Merkur progress is an excellent razor if you are willing to ignore some of the issues we discussed. Because it is adjustable, it suits for most men. No matter if you have a coarse, thick beard or softer hair. Nor if your lifestyle means that you usually shave once or twice a week, it still provides excellent results. And if you dislike the knob then some of the razors are retrofitted with new knobs, handles and the adjusting mechanisms are calibrated. Though this kind of upgrade also means heftier price. But I must say they look gorgeous after the knobs are replaced. If interested check out Digress and Mergress.