Wing Sung piston-filler demonstrators: 698 and 618

Wing Sung is a market brand of Shanghai Hero Pen Company, one of the biggest pen manufacturers in China. Fountain pens are quite popular in China and are still considered the most economical and reliable way to write. Super markets and stationary stores typically offer several options for disposable fountain pens, cheap refillable pens, fountain pen ink and various other accessories. Coming from the Western world, I was pleasantly surprised to find such variety in China, a society that is rapidly transforming to the digital domain. Nevertheless, if you look around, China can be a fountain pen lover’s paradise.

Shanghai Hero Pen Company manufactures and sells hundreds of fountain pens, as illustrated in its product page, with familiar brands including Hero, Gentleman, Doctor and Wing Sung. Wing Sung is a particularly interesting brand, having launched fountain pens, some of which are copies of popular Western pens (e.g. the Wing Sung 6539 is comparable to Lamy Al-star and the Wing Sung 659 is comparable to the Pilot 78G). Some people also say that Wing Sung recently purchased the machinery of a closing Pilot factory (in China?) and has proceeded to use the same molds, mills and equipment to produce very similar pens to Pilot. However this is purely conjecture and I have not been able to find any real evidence that this has really happened.

Regardless of these facts and rumors, Wing Sung pens are very interesting and quite good performers and often cost significantly less than their Western or Japanese competitors. Some say that the experience with Wing Sung pens can be hit-and-miss, but the pens I received were quite good out of the box.

The pens

The pens are obviously demonstrators and piston-fillers but in many ways, are unique.

open_top_annotatedThe Wing Sung pens basking in the sun

The Wing Sung 618 could be described as a copy of the Parker 51, with the exception that it’s a piston-filler (there are demonstrator variants of the Parker 51, albeit very rare and expensive). It has a hooded nib and a transparent barrel that shows the ink in the feed. It has a rounded finial without any pattern or marking. The clip itself has an arrow shape that resembles similar Parker pens and is quite stiff.

The Wing Sung 698 on the other hand, is a more square version with the blind cap (and top cap) being flat. The one I got came with gold-colored furniture. Its finial is decorated with a star pattern that gives it a unique look. You could say that this pen resembles the TWSBI 580, although its slightly smaller and lighter. The clip is round and unmarked and is also stiff.

capsWing Sung finials

Both pens are sturdy, although relatively light compared to similar pens, especially a TWSBI 580 and a Parker 51. There’s not much to say about their design – fountain pen lovers will feel comfortable with the pen shapes as they will be very familiar with both.

In my opinion, the 618 is a more interesting shape and pleasing to both eye and hand. Its torpedo shape is more retro to my eyes and much more interesting than the more utilitarian 698 design.

Filling mechanism

This is where things get interesting. Both pens are piston fillers with a locking blind cap. This means that you need to slightly pull the blind cap and then screw/unscrew to empty/fill the pen using the piston mechanism.

blindcap2_annotatedThe blind cap retracted and ready for action

This has several benefits: the cap mechanism is locked, meaning you cannot turn the piston accidentally. Also, with a bit more force and when the blind cap is in the locked position, you can unscrew the whole piston mechanism from the pen for cleaning. The locking mechanism is something even quite more expensive pens do hot have, and is certainly a very nice feature.

Both pens hold a lot of ink, probably between 1.5 and 2 ml, which provide writing for hundreds of pages.

Nibs and writing experience

Almost all Wing Sung pens come with fine nibs and these two are no exception. Both nibs are made of steel and are very fine, almost to the point of resembling Japanese fine nibs. Coupled with a dry ink, these nibs will provide very thin lines, which makes them feel scratchy on rough paper. However, it has to be said that both nibs are quite smooth on high quality paper and are relatively wet writers.

nibs_annotatedWing Sung 698 and 618 nibs

In my case, the 618 is a wetter writer and lays down a broader line, but it is barely distinguishable from the 698. Perhaps it has to do with the inks i used: Sailor Rikyu Cha for the 618 and Iroshizuku Kon-Peki for the 698.

The added benefit of these fine nibs and the large ink reservoirs is that these pens will write for a very long time before they need a refill. I bought the 698 in August (2017), inked it on arrival and have been writing daily with it since.  The ink is still at 25% of the whole capacity today.

Good news for long writing sessions, bad news if you like switching inks regularly (like me!).

Value

We usually do not discuss this in our pen reviews, but these pens do deserve a honorable addition. They are very good value and their price is <$15 shipped each. Similar pens (i.e. demonstrator, piston-filler and a decent nib) are at least 4-5x the price (for example the TWSBI Diamond 580 costs $50). They are excellent workhorses for long writing sessions and in my case, perfect companions for long trips abroad: they have become my go-to pens for air travel.

Verdict

If you are a fan of demonstrators, buy these pens. They are both excellent, low price and quite good performers for their price. The piston filler is also a good addition which provides very large capacity in both cases. The only drawback is that you have to buy them directly from China online and it may take a while until they arrive.

open_top2

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.