I often say that I will buy no more pens – for myself, that is, not for the business! And I also say no more Chinese pens. I stick to neither of these resolutions. The Chinese are no longer the poor relations of the pen world. They are turning out pens now that are competitive in quality and ingenuity with the rest of the world.
The biggest seller last year was the Wing Sung 699. It is variously described as a vacuumatic filler and a piston filler, neither of which is an accurate description of its filling mechanism. Many of those advertising and reviewing pens have little idea of pen history and the traditional names used to identify various filling systems.
The vacuum description has always been problematic. Every filling system depends on the creation of a vacuum to draw ink, even the Parker 61 capillary system. That said it has been applied to the Parker pen of that name and the first Parker 51s and also to the plunger fill Sheaffer which is where the confusion arises. That pen is a plunger filler and so is the Wing Sung 699. I’m glad we’ve got that out of the way!
At £16.99 the 699 is a little more expensive than the average Chinese pen but it is almost ludicrously inexpensive for what it is. At 15.1 cm capped it is a large pen and the mechanical parts make it quite heavy at 29 g. Though it isn’t too heavy for me it may be too big to be comfortable especially the very big nib. I am told that in appearance and operation it closely resembles a particular expensive Japanese pen. Frankly, I never care about these things which seem to be the source of great annoyance to some people. If it is a good pen that is all I care about and this is a good pen!
It is a very Onoto-like in filling. Unscrew the blind cap, apply a single thrust and the pen is filled – in this case not quite to the top but enough to keep you writing for a long time. Again, like the Onoto, to enable good ink flow you have to leave the blind cap unscrewed a little. The nib is a 0.5 mm fine – which is not very fine in my book. I think I might have a nib that suits me better and I might swap them around.
Other things are as you might expect. The cap fits well with a single turn. The semitransparent smoky brown plastic feels very smooth, warm and pleasant. The nib lays down ink well with no skipping or hard starting. It’s a good nib, just a bit too long and too like a medium for me. These pens have not been around all that long so we can’t really talk about durability, but I haven’t heard of cracking or breakages. The plunger works very smoothly.
As I said I feel that it may be too big to be a keeper for me. Large pens are not a problem for me but very large nibs can be, pushing the wrist back to an uncomfortable angle. We shall see.
The accompanying piece of paper is almost all in Chinese but it does show an exploded diagram. The pen should be quite easy to disassemble should the need arise. I’m not one of those whose default is to tear a pen apart to clean it but it’s good to know that it should be easy to change the nib.