British Vintage Gillettes: What am I missing?

Discussion in 'Safety Razors' started by ShaversRUs, Feb 14, 2023.

  1. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Well, I'm missing all of them, since I don't have any. From what I've read over the years, they are very highly regarded, and many people rank them higher than their U.S. equivalents. But how much am I really "missing" in terms of the shaving experience?

    I was thinking of trying one of the British Techs, but I never see them for what I would consider a reasonable price. I've been able to get U.S. pre-war and post war Techs for reasonable prices. I just can't see spending 3x-5x more for one than a U.S.-made one.

    Actually, the British spiral aluminum ones seem somewhat plentiful, and perhaps they are somewhat reasonably priced, but I have never heard anyone rave about them the way they do about the flat-botton and hybrid. Raised-flat-bottom -- I think that's only for open-comb, right?

    I have good examples of U.S.-made TTOs, including a Ranger Tech, an open-combed Sheraton, and a notched-gold Aristocrat from 1948. I have the flare-tips in all the colors.

    Are the British TTOs that much better?

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  2. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    You're not. In my experience there is no razor that is so exceptional that one has to have it for shaving purposes. With that said some razors definitely perform better than others and not just subjectively but none that you couldn't get a great shave elsewhere.

    My take if you are already willing to spend x amount of dollars on a razor then any British Gillette razor in that x amount is fair game for shaving purposes. Just don't overpay if you can avoid doing so.
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  3. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member


    The price is always way out of the range I would pay.

    At the end of the day, it's still a shave. N'est-ce pas?
  4. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    On 3pc Tech razors the post war versions that all look the same shave the same whether they are British, Canadian or American. The pre war ones do deviate a bit. I personally think the Canadian ones are the best of the lot shave wise but not worth going after unless you already like shaving with a 3pc American Tech.

    The "hybrid" Tech is more so a collectors piece and unless you luck into one at a decent price I'd just not put any effort into attaining one if you don't also collect. The British spiral aluminum ones are the same as American post war Techs that share the same razor head design. Can't say on flat or raised flat bottom techs since I've never really owned any because I never was enamored with them.
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  5. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member


    I do notice a difference between pre-war and post-war, with the former being just slightly more aggressive, but still mild.

    Those British flat-bottoms and hybrids at least have a head with different geometry. I'm just struggling to understand why Gillette would change the geometry for the U.K. compared to the equivalent razors in the U.S. And all these years later people raving about them, as if the U.S.-made ones are a red-headed step-child. :)

    I do love the handle of most of those British Aristocrats -- barber-pole but more stylish than usual. I believe the only U.S. made one with that handle was the Executive. I think both are rhodium-plated -- gorgeous. The Parket 87r copied it, but without the rhodium.

    I'm sorta/kinda a collector, but don't like to spend too much for one vintage razor. I'm more interested in the shaving experience rather than collectibility -- user-grade is fine for me.
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  6. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    The British / US thing is they were technically independent companies that had full autonomy on design and pricing in their respective sales markets when they first started out. They started to consolidate razors in the late 50s first with the 3pc Tech razor heads only then handles later on, then adjustables and finally the Super Speeds when they moved to the black handle designs in the the 60s.

    On the TTO stuff they British stuff is different from it's equivalent counterpart but unlesx that particular razor was within spitting distance of good enough, trading up to it's British equivalent is not enough of a difference to go seeking for shaving outside of curiousity reasons for buying said razor in my

    That barber pole handle design is also seen on the first US open comb Aristocrat TTO razors but those have shot up in price, the Executive with a case will cost even more. Yes you are correct about them being rhodium plated. They are also very mild shavers. the design I believe also shows up on some of the American 2pc new improved razors.
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  7. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the info.

    I still need to try alot of my vintage Gillettes, lol.

    I have found all my vintage gear, including the Schick Injectors, to be very user-friendly. I have never had a bad shave with any of them yet.

    My understanding with both Schick and Gillette, is that as the years progressed, the razors became milder.

    I have never dedicated enough time to any one in particular, which is something that I should do. When I use one, and the shave is good (which it usually is), I set it aside and make a mental check-mark that it is a good razor.

    I used a Gillette old-type for a few shaves a couple of years ago, but don't remember that much about it other than it being fine and definitely in the range of aggression that I like -- which is on the mild side, relatively speaking. I don't like overly aggressive razors.

    I have 2 New models -- short comb and long comb. I have not tried the New Improved. They are a bit pricey -- even the Tuckaways. I have heard that some of the other New models are better -- I believe New Deluxe and New Standard? Or is one of those the same head as the New Improved, but as a 2-piece razor? I know the answers are just a search away, and I recently looked into it, but frankly it is hard to keep track of all the different names, especially ones that are named differently because of the case they came in, lol. I know about the Mr. Razor site, too, and that just makes my RAD worse.

    And the Schick Krona turned out to be one of my favorites.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2023
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  8. gorgo2

    gorgo2 geezerhood

    I always found the Tech stamped 1932 (Canada?) to be a noticeably better shaver than the run of the mill Techs.
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  9. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Meaning post-war? And in that era, brass or the later zamak ones?
  10. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    Yes and no on the mild through the years.

    Gillettes the adjustables get more aggressive with each iteration starting with a standard Fatboy. The last iteration of the superspeed, the ones sold in the 80s with the different style knurling on the black handles also are more aggressive though still on the mild side than the earlier black handle ones from the mid 60s through 1980.

    The Goodwill razors specifically the 160 variants are also an outlier that goes more aggressive not less.

    On the new improved razors you only have about 4 major variants. You can't go by sets unless you are set collector. Regardless of the style of the handle you have 2pc versions, those with razor head attached to the handle and 3pc piece versions where the razor head isn't. The 2 piece come in 2 revisions ones made after about 27 were modified because of blades made at the time snapping in the razor heads when one tightened them down. No reason to buy one over the other unless you are collecting something specific. The 3pc versions the combs came in 2 sizes. The 3 pc ones are considered collectable and sellers will overprice them as such.
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  11. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Thanks for that. Very interesting.

    Vintage razors except for the extremely common ones seem to sell very high right now. It does not seem like the right time to buy. Plus I have so many in my collection that I haven't tried yet.

    I have a black handled superspeed from 1972, give or take a year. (I'd have to check). It has the rattle. Haven't tried it yet. I believe that should be roughly the same as the neutral-colored flare-tip, right? As I mentioned, I have found all vintage Gillettes very user friendly.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but throughout Gillette's DE history, for a given point in time, people only had 2 Gillette models to choose from for the most part, in terms of the shaving experience: the latest 3-piece or a TTO. In other words, except for the 3 color superspeed era, and the adjustable era, one did not have much choice to say "I need a milder razor" or "I need a more aggressive razor", at least if they wanted to stick with Gillette.
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  12. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    The run-of-the-mill Techs are still pretty darn good, though.
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  13. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    That's a pretty accurate assessment, at least beyond the beginning of the Tech era/post 1934. Pre-Tech, there was more variety of aggressiveness, but blades were thicker then, so there was probably less perceived variation between the models than we see now with modern blades.

    Older British Gillette razors tend to be a little heavier than their American counterparts, slightly more aggressive, and slightly better build quality.
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  14. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Most people back then, I assume, bought one razor and used it 'til it fell apart.
    I don't think we realize how good we have it now. (Maybe some do.) There are so many options. And this, I believe, is still a cottage industry.

    Since Gillette always seemed to get the lion's share of their revenue from blades, I'm a bit curious on why they kept changing their razor designs. My guess is that it was still profitable. I doubt any company would do something that wasn't profitable. And I guess they always needed to "one-up" the competition.

    I think RAD is what keeps today's wet-shaving razor-makers afloat.
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  15. BBS

    BBS Well-Known Member

    The unsold ones are the high priced ones. You have to check the sold ones on ebay to get the actual current market. The bargains you have to carefully check the listings for mislabeled or razors hidden in lots.

    The rattle is common it has to with the clip they switched to hold the razor stem in place. It is sometimes referred to as a rattle clip. Similar to question but not the same for those 2 superspeeds. Similar enough I wouldn't go out of my way to switch just for the way they shave. For how they are built yes if that is your criteria.

    It would depend the era on the 2 model question. Once TTO razors became a thing you had a minimum of 3 styles regardless of set configurations. You had 3pc tech razors, thin handle as I'll call them TTO razors like the Super Speed models and a fat handle model like an Aristocrat. Early 50s they had the 3 tier mild to wild options in blue, standard and red tips that would be 5 options. Then in the late 50s you can add the adjustables as a 6th option. 60s they dropped the Aristocrat/Diplomat style handles, 3 tier super speed options but added the plastic handle knack / slim twist models still offering 4 options regardless of sets.
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  16. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member

    Oh yea when I have the time and patience I pour through the listings. I've learned that with all my collecting hobbies. The "sold" listings are how you figure it out. Then you need to dig and find out the nuances of how razor X sold for 20 bananas one day and 100 bananas on a different day. Sometimes it's condition; sometimes it's not.

    Well I have both; I should probably shave with both and compare. :)

    I was focused more on the heads, but yes the handle does affect the shave.

    My head spins trying to figure out Aristocrat/Executive/President/Diplomat/Milord and others. I've read up on it many times but then I forget. In my mind, it just fancier platings and patterns and handle sizes, with the same head for a given year or years.

    For now, I'm happy to have a TTO from each era, with only a few dupes in terms of head geometry. For example, I have a 1948 Gold Aristrocrat, late 40s superspeed, and a Gold Milord that are essentially the same head. From earlier, I managed to get a Ranger Tech that wasn't listed as such, which gives me the no-notched, no-crease in the baseplate geometry. I also have an OC Gold Sheraton. Plus I have all 3 color flare-tips, plus a black-handle. I also have the no date code Korean Was Era superspeed with the black tip. Not sure if it is the aluminum one or the steel one. From the weight, I'd guess aluminum. I guess I should get an 80s black handle.

    So from what I gather, a British TTO probably wouldn't knock my socks off. My gut feel is that a British Tech might. Emphasis on "might".

    Thanks, it's always interesting stuff.
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  17. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    Not quite. Up until about 1950, British Aristocrats used an extruded, rather than stamped, baseplate. The Aristocrats were different razors than their lessor brethren. If a bog standard super speed/rocket is at a 3 on the 1-9 aggression scale, the Aristocrats are at a solid 4. Until 1952ish.

    If you want to try the Aristocrat head without the Aristocrat price, start searching for patent numbers on eBay. Gillette (pat. #) will turn up all sorts of interesting razors. Including aristocrat jr's. Which are aristocrat heads on rocket handles.

    If a super speed/rocket is your average sedan, the Aristocrat head is your Corvette. If it's on an Aristocrat Jr., it's the plain Jane sedan with a Corvette engine swap out.
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  18. ShaversRUs

    ShaversRUs Well-Known Member


    When I said, "it's just fancier platings and patterns and handle sizes, with the same head for a given year or years", I meant among U.S. versions, despite the subject of this thread. :)

    Interesting -- thanks for the advice. These are all British made, I assume. (Well, it is the subject of the thread that I myself started, lol.)

    So one of those British Aristocrats would be much better than a 1948, notched, Aristocrat, as well as a Ranger Tech?
    All these have the TTO knob that lowers as you twist, right? I bought a 1940s superspeed, thinking it was a rocket, since the pics showed the knob lowered. Turns out it was a plain vanilla superspeed whose crimp was loose, lol. It was cheap as chips (about the average price of a 1940s superspeed), with a BIN, so I jumped on it quickly because I was afraid it would disappear! I easily fixed the crimp.

    What reasonably priced razor, vintage or modern, is closest to a British Hybrid Tech, which seems to be the gold standard for Techs? By reasonably priced, I mean much, much less than getting a real one, and much less than a modern high-end razor (e.g. Wolfman.) Probably more than I'm willing to pay, at least for a new one, but how close is a Feather AS-D2 in terms of the shave?
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  19. tonich

    tonich Well-Known Member

    All the British Gillettes are better than their American cousins. In all aspects - design, built, plating, functions. Not to mention that they have lines that were never made in the USA - NEW RFB, Tech, Rockets, Aristocrats, etc
    Start collecting those NOW!
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  20. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    Allow me to introduce you to our forum expert on this subject. @brit
    He can tell you what razor might be closest to a Hybrid Tech.

    As for the (not vintage) razor you might be looking for...
    I got involved in another project, and never followed up on the Yaqi Sentinel.
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