It doesn’t often happen that a copycat comes close to the original and may even supersede it. But that is precisely what Parker Variant has done. Its design is based on Merkurs Progress. There are some alterations that we will discuss soon, but basic anatomy is the same. So should you prefer the Indian brethren instead of the original German one? Keep reading and find out.
+ Adjustable razor
+ Good grip
+ Easy to assemble
+ Good fit and finish
- Adjustable safety razor. You can adjust how aggressive you want the razor to be
- Weighs 3.8 oz / 110 which is average for adjustable razors but more than most other razors
- Overall length is 4″ / 10 cm. Comfortable to use no matter your hand size
- Handle has a good knurling which provides good grip
- Comes in three different finishes: satin (matte), rose-gold and black “graphite”
- It is a two-piece safety razor. This makes it easy to switch the razor blades
- Good quality
I have always wondered why so little effort goes to packaging. You design the razor, make the molds, cast the metal, and after final finishing, you pack it into something that looks just so bland. While they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, it is still something most of us do. Especially if you are not quite sure about the product. We will fill the knowledge cap during this review, but there is nothing we can do about the package. So should you give this as a present, make sure to prepare a good pitch for this razor (or print out this review as an alternative) because it won’t sell itself. Or re-wrap into something nicer.
Parker Variant adjustable is a sturdy razor. It weighs 3,8 oz / 110 g and is 4″ / 10 cm tall. While it is heavier and bigger than most safety razors it still very efficient and comfortable safety razor.
Weight: 3.8 oz / 110 g
Length: 4″ / 10 cm
Made in India
How Does It Feel In Your Hand
Parker Variant comes in one standard handle size. It is longer than the Merkur Progress M500 model (though you can order Progress with a longer handle as well – M510). Razors that are bigger than ~ 3.6″ / 9 cm usually feel comfortable and are a good fit no matter your hand size.
It has three different finishes: satin (matte-gray), graphite (black) and rose gold. When the Parker Variant adjustable was first introduced the Graphite version suffered from chipping, revealing the brass handle. This has been fixed now.
The Variant has a superb grip. One of the notorious problems with Merkur Progress is the slippery handle. While this can be overcome by changing your grip or alum block, I would still rather use a razor that has a solid grip without me thinking how to hold it while shaving.
Parker Variant is a heavy razor that may need some time getting used to. It weighs solid 3.8 oz /110 g which is a 0.5 oz / ~20 g more than its rival Merkur Progress. It weighs almost as much as iPhone 5, so if you happen to remember how heavy this phone was, you can imagine how it will feel in your hand. The weight of the razor is probably also one of the reasons why it is rated by users a tad more aggressive than the Progress. But this doesn’t affect your shaving. Even better, it gives you good tactile feedback.
Despite the weight, it has a very good balance. Some people lean towards heavier heads while other like it more when the weight is in the handle. So the whole balance discussion comes down to your own preference.
What About The Design
Parker Variant is an adjustable two-piece closed comb safety razor. The head is made out of zamak (pot metal), and the handle is made out of brass. This is a standard way how all Parker razors are made. It makes the handle corrosion resistant but does little to improve the longevity of the head. Alas, the head is usually the part where rust kicks in. It is nonetheless an improvement as most companies, Merkur included, use only zamak.
The head has different geometry compared to Progress, being thicker. This makes it a little bit bulky which can cause annoyance when you are shaving tricky areas like under your nose. But as I explained in Merkur Futur review this is mostly technique related problem. Once you get used to the razor, you will not even notice this. We already covered the handle so let’s go to the adjustment mechanism.
It is a two-piece razor. The cap and the base-handle piece which contains inside the adjustment mechanism. The adjustment dial is located at the base of the handle. The adjustment knob is solid metal instead of the plastic one that Progress has. After assembling the razor, the dot on the handle should be now in line with number 1 on the dial. To start adjusting, just turn the knob in the opposite direction (you basically start to unscrew the handle piece from the cap. While doing this the blade gap will grow larger hence the razor becomes more aggressive)
The dial has numbers 1 to 5 meaning you have 5 different levels each with its own aggressiveness. But you can unwind the knob even further. You basically can adjust the blade cap until the cap falls off. Giving you in fact up to 11 different levels. While this is certainly not the way it is supposed to be used it is nice “trick” if you want to get more aggressive shaves.
Will It Shave?
Parker Variant comes with 5 default razor blades that are fine, but I encourage people to try out other brands as well. There are a ton of different razor blades out there, e.g., Astra, Feather, Derby, P, etc.
Some razors are silent when using them. Not Variant. It gives good auditory and tactile feedback helping you to master your technique. The sound is a cue that your razor is cutting and not just gliding down your face. As stated earlier it is slightly more aggressive on its lowest settings compared to Progress. When you dial up the aggression, you will get a smooth, close and comfortable shave.
One of the reasons adjustable razors are good for travel is that you can mow down the beard you have been growing for a few days with little effort. Just dial up the settings, remove the heavy growth and finish up on lower settings to get baby butt smooth.
Comparison: Parker Variant Adjustable vs. Vikings Blade The Crusader
It would make sense to choose Merkur Progress as a comparison. But I have already done it under the Progress review, so I decided to pick something different. I chose The Vikings Blade The Crusader. Both razors are adjustable but also different. I will cover only some aspects here because The Crusader is a very diverse razor.
The Crusader also weighs 3.8 oz / 110 g, but it is bigger. It stands 4.6″ / 11.7 cm tall. I already mentioned that longer handles facilitate all men no matter your hand size, but it also makes it possible to use it as a head- or leg-shaver. This adds extra value to the razor.
What really sets them apart from each other are the adjustment mechanism and the way you insert a razor blade. The Crusader has no markings on its adjustment dial. It is called “continuous adjustment band.” This is supposed to make the adjusting more intuitive. To be honest, I am not really sold on that. I like to be precise on these matters. I want to know that the shave I had today will be the same as tomorrow. If I only use my eyes to calibrate the aggressiveness, it may vary.
As mentioned there is a difference also how you insert a razor blade. The Crusader has a TTO mechanism which will open the butterfly doors. This is the easiest and most convenient way how to change razor blades.
When you hold both of them in your hand, the Parker feels sturdier. It is really well built. The Crusader feels a bit flimsier. When you shake it the doors will rattle (it says in the product info sheet that it is intentional to remove water droplets better. Feels more like a marketing gimmick though) and when the doors are closed, I can see that they aren’t aligned. These small things will not affect your shaving, but they do speak about the overall quality in my opinion.
To summarize the key differences:
- The Chieftain has a TTO mechanism that opens the butterfly doors revealing the razor blade bed. This makes it very easy to change the blade
- The Chieftain weighs as much as Parker Variant but has a longer handle
- Both are adjustable safety razors. The Crusader is adjusted using your eye and experience. There are no markings to tell you exactly how aggressive it is
- The Crusader comes in a black and gold finish
- The Crusader has an asymmetrical head. To read more about this read the full review. But basically, it means that you can further fine-tune the aggressiveness of your shave
- The Crusader is also mostly brass, but the head also has zamak (pot metal) made parts
Parker has been known to have some quality issues. But with Parker Variant the company has turned a new page. Though you can get Merkur Progress from Amazon U.S for the same price, I would recommend you to get Parker Variant instead. It looks better and performs superbly. It truly is a modern classic.