[Updated October 2023] I made no secret of my love for the Merkur Progress adjustable safety razor. I’ve said “you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” That opinion officially comes to an end with the launch of the Parker Variant adjustable safety razor, my new “dead fingers” adjustable DE razor.
Variant Vs. Progress
Note: Super Safety Razors, Amazon, and West Coast Shaving links are affiliate.
The Variant certainly bears a resemblance to the Progress. Obviously, both are adjustable. Both have a two-piece design. Both bend the blade dramatically. Both have an adjustment dial at the base of the handle. But the Variant addresses most all the nagging annoyances of the Progress and even adds a few pleasant touches of its own as well.
At three-and-a-half inches, the handle of the Variant is slightly longer than the standard Progress’ three inch handle (there is a version of the Progress* with a four inch handle but it is more expensive and not widely available). But more importantly, the Variant is available with two different non-slip handles! The Progress’ smooth handle has long been the bane of the slippery-handed shaver. There are ways to cope with it, but it’s not necessary with the Variant. The grip is sure and comfortable.
Weight and Balance
The Variant is heavier than the Progress, at about 110 grams on my kitchen scale (the Progress weighs in at about 90 grams). More importantly, I find the Variant’s weight more “distributed” than other heavyweight razors so there isn’t much of concern about hand fatigue: the balance is excellent.
The off-color, plastic adjustment knob of the Progress has long been considered both an engineering and a visual detraction of what some consider an otherwise elegant design. There are after-market options but they can be difficult to obtain (as artisans come and go) and add to the over-all cost of the razor. The Variant addresses this with a smooth-acting metal adjustment knob. Like the Progress, the Variant is continuously adjustable through the range rather than using click-stops.
The Variant’s adjustment range is wide, though the low end appears to be not quite as low as a Progress (or at least my Progress): a “2” on my Progress corresponds to about a “1.5” on my Variant. This would be a concern only if you were interested in a very mild razor. On the high side you can “turn it up to 11.” 🙂
If you’re a fan of sensory feedback or ASMR shaving, the Variant will be right up your alley. I find it has a very loud auditory feedback and a good tactile feedback as well.
If you shave with the Progress, transitioning to the Variant will be easy, although it may take a few shaves as you subtly tweak your positioning to account for the different weight and balance. If you’re used to a non-adjustable razor you will need to adjust the way you hold the razor, and of course find the setting(s) best for you. But after you get then hang of it though I think you will get outstanding shaves!
The Parker Variant is now available from a number of sources.