One of the more talked-about razors to come around in a long time, the PILS DE razor has sparked a lot of questions, mostly concerning the incredible price unseen in a long time. Is it worth it? What does it feel like? Does it shave well? Ken, have you gone off your medication again? All these questions will be answered! (Except maybe that last one.)
Normally I mention price at the end of the review, but the PILS is a unique case. The 101NE model (Satin finished 100% solid Stainless Steel) I purchased runs $245 USD. It is not even an adjustable razor. The other models that vary in their materials run the same amount, except for the amazingly gorgeous 24kt Gold Plated model (101NG), which runs a higher $320 USD. Told you they were expensive.
Coming out of Germany, PILS is a company that specializes on the super high-end side of products. They have a few different types of razors and accessories for sale these days from cartridge razors to their new DE line. All of them are made in one location by a small group of people and frankly are to be considered artisan products. These are for those that want "the best" and are willing to pay for them. There is also another term that gets thrown around when it comes to PILS, and that is "perfect".
Now when I say perfect, I do not mean perfect for everyone; I mean perfect in terms of craftsmanship. The razor (and stand) I received is nothing short of a technical marvel, which absolutely no flaw in any part I could find. Keep in mind I have a non-plated version so it has no possibility of bad plating, but based on what I have seen from the one I own, I cannot believe any of the other models will be any less short of perfection in construction. This made me feel very relaxed when I held it actually, since it isn't everyday that one buys such an expensive razor sight unseen.
One of the main advertisements for the PILS line is that they provide no uneven blade gap and no uneven blade exposure due to their extremely high machining and overall quality. They did not lie when it came to this. When I got mine in the mail, I took a magnifying glass to it to check it out and could find no evidence of any unevenness. The beauty of it as well is that the blade can only go in perfectly. There are a few little notches on the razor body that line up the blade perfectly, no fiddling required.
The PILS is a two-piece razor, but with a twist. The head of the razor overlaps the ends of the blade, so only the cutting surface is exposed when the razor is shut. There are finger grooves on either end of the head which you hold onto and then you spin the handle of the razor to open/close it. The bottom head section is attached to the handle yet spins freely until the razor is screwed closed. It is a unique design indeed, and due to how it locks in the blade is basically flat. Imagine a Merkur razor or a Gillette. You know how the blade is bent a little as the center is pushed up giving you your cutting angle? The PILS does not have this push so you have an almost flat blade exposure which affects how you shave with it.
The PILS works only as well as the user. This is the key phrase you need to remember if you are to use one. Due to the relatively extreme weight of the PILS (it weighs in at 125 grams, nearly 4 ounces!) almost no pressure is required to do the cutting, and due to the flat blade profile the angle at which you shave is MUCH steeper than usual. The result of such qualities mean that the user has control over if the razor is going to cut at all. If your angle is not perfect, you get an extremely mild shave or no cutting at all. Once you find that sweet spot, the shave is medium aggressive to aggressive if you are using a Feather and are too heavy handed. It is great for an expert, but terrible for a beginner who doesn't know how his face reacts or what angle he needs.
Final thoughts on the PILS: I love mine, plain and simple. It may very well be the last DE razor I ever buy. Can I honestly recommend it? Sure, but with conditions. This is NOT a razor for beginners or those looking for a cost effective shave. This is a razor for those who have extra cash lying around asking to be spent, and even then there are razors on the market that cost much less and do a very nice, if not better job for some people. This is a razor for those who want a piece of art and craftsmanship that delivers a great shave if your technique is sound.