21 November 2019

Filofax Chester A5 Compact organiser - review

The Filofax Chester range has been recently released as part of the Established 1921 range to celebrate the upcoming 100th anniversary of Filofax personal organisers.

The Filofax Chester model name has been used before, but it looks nothing like this latest iteration.

Chester is a former roman city situated on the River Dee in North West England. It is also close to where I spent my childhood years. I lived about 12 miles (18km) from Chester, so I've visited Chester many times. It still has a medieval wall surrounding the centre of the city, and a wonderful zoo on the outskirts of the city. Therefore, you can imagine this model name has quite a lot of personal connections for me.

I'm very grateful to Filofax UK for supplying this Filofax Chester A5 Compact in brown for me to review and share with you.

The Chester range was released initially in Japan by Filofax, but thankfully they have added it to their web stores in all countries as far as I can tell.

The organiser comes in a sturdy cardboard box.

The pattern on the interior of the box matches the pattern used back in 1921. 

The leather has a very obvious printed pattern on it. The stitching is in a contrasting colour and it to a very high standard at 12 stitches per inch, that is equal to what I've previously measured on Gillio and Van der Spek organisers. A Filofax Malden is typically 7-8 stitches per inch. 

On the inside front cover at the foot is the embossed labelling of the model number and size in the usual way. 

Without any inserts and opened you can see the overall internal layout of the Filofax A5 compact. I think it is very practical and better than the Heritage A5 Compact. 

There are two pen loops provided, but they are not elasticated pen loops, therefore you might have difficultly finding a suitable pen.

I found pens over 9mm in diameter would not easily fit in either pen loop.

On other A5 organisers Filofax often make the left hand pen loop larger in size to the right hand one. With the Chester A5 Compact they are both the same size.

Despite the restriction on size, I found my Pentel P207 mechanical pencil and a Borghini V5/RE roller ball pen fitted the loops perfectly.

In addition to the pen loops there are 10 credit/business card slots available and two full height slip pockets, one 10cm in depth the other approximately 13.5 cm deep. These will be amply in capacity to hold various items of paperwork you might need to carry with you.

On the reverse inside cover in addition to the clasp and pen loop there is a full height zip pocket (19cm opening) and a full height slip pocket again about 13.5 cm deep, with the zip pocket being fractionally deeper. The zip clasp when closed can be tucked behind the leather of the slip pocket, a neat solution. 

The Chester Compact A5 does come with inserts, but it doesn't include a diary insert. On the transparent fly leaf there is a sticker which states: Want a Diary? Content excludes a diary, so you can buy the one you really want.

So in my case that will be one I print from the Philofaxy collection 😏

They have included a good selection of other inserts for you to use:
  • transparent flyleaf, 
  • 1921 collection front sheet, 
  • 1-6 number indices, 
  • 8 sheets of cream ruled paper, 
  • 8 sheets of cream dotted paper, 
  • 8 sheets of cream plain paper, 
  • 8 sheets of blue ruled notepaper, 
  • 8 sheets of green ruled notepaper, 
  • 8 sheets of pink ruled notepaper, 
  • 4 sheets of to do lists, 
  • 8 sheets of contacts, 
  • brown ruler/ page marker, 
  • top opening envelope

The rings are quite small at '15 mm' internal diameter, but from my experience of using the same size in the Heritage A5 Compact it is surprising what you can comfortably fit on to such small rings. I managed to get a full 12 months of Week per View diary inserts, plus all of the fill it came with, minus the 24 sheets of coloured paper.

The rings are quoted as being 15mm on the website I measured them at just under 16 mm.

They are the same PXR type rings as fitted to the Heritage A5 Compact. This means they are replaceable (if you can find a supplier), but they aren't easy to remove. However, the contrast to that is that they are very secure. I removed the top plate to check what type was fitted.

The size of the Filofax Chester A5 Compact is very similar to the Filofax Heritage A5 Compact that we reviewed back in 2016.  It measures approximately 18 x 23.5 cm or 19cm x 23.5 cm if you allow for the clasp and pen loops.

In terms of weight, the Filofax Chester A5 Compact without any inserts weighs 286g/10 ounces.

The Filofax Heritage A5 Compact without any inserts, but including the leather fly leaf weighs 279g/9.84 ounces or 211g/7.44 ounces without the fly leaf.

The Filofax Chester is also available in regular Personal size with 23mm rings and Personal Slim size with 11 mm rings and no clasp. Additionally there is a full range of accessories and writing folios in A4 and A5. 

See the Filofax Website for full details of the full Filofax Est 1921 Chester range

Again thank you to Filofax UK for providing the sample for review.

To finish off here is a video review I discovered on line this week. Thank you to Anuja for making this video.


  1. Thank you for your review. I prefer reading them to watching a video.

  2. Thanks Steve! Good to see that Filofax has sent you a sample to review - a practice that used to be commonplace and surely good for their sales!

    As someone who campaigned on Philofaxy, several years ago, for a Compact A5, I hope this model is as successful as the Heritage range appears to have been. One thing you haven't reviewed is THE PRICE. At £220, it is almost double that of the Heritage A5 Compact (£120) and the most expensive organiser in the Filofax range - and you don't get diary pages or even a year planner! I can see the hassle saved for Filofax by not having to update unsold stock with new calendar pages at this time of year, plus there is a manufacturing cost saving for them AND an opportunity to sell extra product. However, people will receive one of these as a present on Christmas Day morning and then disappointingly realise that you can't spend time excitedly writing in all your 2020 appointments and schedules until the shops reopen and you can buy "the diary you really want"? At the very least, there should be an undated, folded yearly planner leaf.

    At £220, it not only doesn't have diary pages, but is the most expensive organiser in their range. The quality looks ok, but is (presumably) of Far East manufacture and, at this price point, does Filofax really now consider itself in the same quality league as - say - Gilio?

    I don't share your enthusiasm for the design. Ten years ago, ten card pockets would have been ideal. But time has moved on. Like many business folk, all my credit and store/ discount cards are now held digitally on my iPhone and Apple Watch in the Wallet and Stocard app rather than physically carried around. I can't remember the last time I was offered someone's business card and - if I was - I would just take a photo of it and put the physical card in recycling. Receipts are now nearly all digital and what use the zip pocket? Certainly not for coins in our increasingly cashless society!

    So, for these reasons, I think I'll stick with my A5 Compact and Personal Compact Heritage models rather than splash out on a Chester. The only model I might consider is the Personal Slim, but I've coped well enough with my Lockwood and Nappa Pocket Slim models and, unfortunately, neither the Heritage or Chester has been manufactured in Pocket size. Tim (Yorkshire UK - but also used to live near Chester!)

    1. I didn't include prices because being so international these days and with exchange rates varying so much depending on what flavour of BREXIT UK is working towards this week etc...

      But as you have highlighted it.... The cheapest A5 Gillio sell with rings is the Amica at £320, but they have none in stock...

      The cheapest Van der Spek would be about £140 but that comes with 35mm rings so not quite comparable. The cheapest custom with 25mm rings would start at: about £200 but that doesn't include any options just the basic design and not 'Janet Leather' which would add 10% to the price.

      And neither the Gillio or the Van der Spek come with any inserts at all. You can purchase them as an extra if required.

      Christmas Day could be spent printing off Philofaxy inserts... it has to be better than repairing Christmas lights peut être

    2. Hi Tim, I agree with your comments (good to see new designs coming out, like the compact size, but the cost is too high for me) and will also stay with my A5 and Personal Heritages, along with Pocket Nappa Slim.

  3. Sigh. Another Filofax with pen loop issues. I did send them a detailed and constructive e-mail about this. No response. I don't get why they aren't getting the message when so much else of what they do is so good. [Places head against wall. Bash bash bash bash bonk bash …]

  4. Thanks for the review Steve.
    They do look nice and appear comparable in quality to the 1980s models that I favour.
    I notice the example in the video review has EST. 1921 embossed inside.
    I think I’d prefer it that way if I were buying one of this range.

    1. Hi there,

      "Est. 1921" IS actually embossed on the inside cover of all Chester organisers meant for purchase.

      Mr. Morton was sent a production copy for review which left this detail out, however the retail products are embossed, "Est. 1921", as seen in the linked video review.

  5. I suspect that Filofaxes didn’t come boxed in 1921, although one can’t be sure.
    My guess is that the pattern on the lining paper here is taken from some other contemporary source, although I’d love to hear it really was used on original packaging.

  6. Uuu I like this design a lot! Thank you for the article ☺

  7. Thanks for the detailed review. I picked up the Personal size, and I really like it. The quality seems very good, and the pocket layout is practical - identical to the old Dundee model.

    The embossing inside mine is the same as appears in the video for the A5. These are really good binders, and I hope they’re a success for Filofax.