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Hero vs. Duke: the Beijing Opera Challenge


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#1 JeanMichelF

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:38

Hero vs. Duke: the Beijing Opera Challenge

[Hero Beijing Opera #8001 vs. Duke Beijing Opera Rhythm]


This is my first Pen Review on FPN, so you will have to forgive me any awkwardness and forgive my English (this language not being my mother tongue).
You will also have to forgive me for not complying with the rule: One Pen One Review.
However, since two big Chinese Pen Makers were devoting one of their creation to the Beijing Opera, I thought more appropriate to compare their recently issued Fountain Pens.
As a matter of fact, there are even more pens about the same theme and especially one from Luoshi in “cloisonné” and another one from Duke
(but only the cap sports a band displaying some traditional painted faces of the Opera performers). Clearly, they are not playing in the same league as the two big pens I choose to review.


Chinese pens are starting to flood the world with an ever increasing quality and at really incredible prices. So affordable pens that you can own pens that you considered out of your financial reach. Since imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, a lot of those pens were simply copying the design of ancient or recent models from the most famed makers of the past century in the United States and in Europe. Having acquired the most modern tooling and processes (many of their factories are conforming to ISO standards), the Chinese are now attacking the market of the special Edition Pens which was a specialty of German or Italian famous brands.
The Beijing Opera whose origin dates back to 1790, more than 200 years ago (short history here) came back in the news with its daring new Opera House built in the framework of the 2008 Chinese Olympics. So this was a typical theme ideal for special editions pens. Duke, a brand from the Shanghai G.Crown Fountain Pen Ltd. launched a very pricey Pen and Hero, one of the major Chinese manufacturers, established more than 65 years ago, followed with a more sober design. Here they are.

______________________________________________________________________

1. Appearance & Design (Duke 9-Hero 8)

Those two big pens are real beauties, the Duke being a little more “bling bling” and the Hero sporting a more classy design


I think the first pleasure of buying a new pen comes from unwrapping its luxury packaging. The Duke comes in a double packaging with a big (and heavy: beware to the shipping costs) grey outer box filled with gorgeous grey silk. Inside is a small black wooden treasure chest sporting the brand Duke filled with beige pseudo alcantara clothing. The box also includes a double pen leather pouch.



The Hero is housed in a more conservative (and smaller) black wooden box.



The Duke “Beijing Opera Rhythm” is a very spectacular beast, displaying the opera make up buried in a very splendid cloisonné finish in a cobalt blue base.
This is how Duke describes its pen : “Beijing Opera Rhythm 14K Gold Pen takes blue as the back color, top and end are strewing with a crude blue gem; the top, end cap, Ruyi pen nip and the decorate loop with classicality lines are plated with 18K rose gold. The pen is bronze-colored and reminds you back to the patina artistic conception.”
There are two faces displayed on the pen (one on each side of the body). The cloisonné art, taking its origin during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) consists in painting a copper base with enamels of various colors and then baking it. The highlights of the pen are covered with 18K rose gold. On top of the cap and of the body, two blue sapphires are embedded. The Hero sports a more simple design with its dark black smooth body. Only one mask is nested inside. The fittings are also made of gold with a large golden ring on the cap sporting the brand: Hero and the origin: China. And at both ends of the pen you’ll find golden bulbous pieces instead of the stones of the Duke. …

2. Construction & Quality (Duke 10- Hero 8)Chinese can now be associated with quality
From the engravings of the Duke to the features of the Hero, the construction of those two pens perspires with high quality and welcomes you into a world filled with history and culture. Both clips seems incredibly durable, the Duke’s one representing the scales and head of a snake. I couldn’t manage to unscrew the end of this pen like Norman Haase did in his review on His Nibs. Maybe, after all, the design has been changed. The section of the Duke is also engraved with Chinese cloisonné lettering while the Hero one is simply black. All in all, you can appreciate that much more workmanship has gone into the Duke than into the Hero. But at the end of the day, both pens exude a feeling of high quality. One regret is the cap being of the "snap in" type and not screwing back in place (I think that is part of a feeling of luxury for a pen).



3. Weight & Dimensions (Duke 8- Hero 9) - Long, thick, and heavyweight.
Both pens are heavyweigthts. The Duke is 5-1/4" capped and 6-1/4"with the cap posted while the Hero is also around 6-1/4” posted. With a proper load of ink, the Duke came in at 69 grams while the Hero weighted only 57 grams. The Hero is a little thicker than the Duke and its balance and comfort of writing is slightly better.




4. Nib & Performance (Duke 8-Hero 8) A feeling of luxury

Both Pens are fitted with huge nibs. The Duke’s one is an 18K (580) Ruyi model whose profile is strangely sinuous and which is engraved with a crown reminiscent of Duke’s mother company (Shanghai Crown). The Hero one is a two toned gold plated nib. Let’s come to the essential for a pen : both pens are extremely nice to use, both nibs perform extremely well being of the medium to stub type and writing very smoothly with a wet but controlled enough flow which also exudes luxury.



5. Filling System & Maintenance (Duke 7-Hero 7) Ubiquitous c/c filler
Both Pens use a c/c filling system with a good quality converter supplied. Of course, this isn’t as pleasing as a piston filler system. But even Mont-Blanc has adopted this system for many of its pens.



6. Cost & Value (Duke 8-Hero 10)Prices you won’t believe
Since I’m not associated in any way, blah, blah, blah(usual disclaimer) …, I won’t give you the exact price of those pens and you’ll have to figure it by yourself with a little web research. I’ll just state that the Hero is available for less than $50 in the United States and that the Duke is sometimes available for a little more than twice this price. If you’re interested, you can visit the web sites of Todd Nussbaum at IsellPens or Norman Haase at Hisnibs.com or even in China, the one of Comeon 1788, all perfectly known by the FPN community. I consider both pens as being extraordinary value for money, the Hero having an edge here for its affordable price. But the masterwork represented by the Duke and all the obvious time and workmanship that went into his manufacturing also have to be taken into account.


7. Conclusion (Final score Duke 8.3- Hero 8.3) Why not buy both?

Definitely a close call, both pens crossing on par the finishing line. Why not chose to own both pens just like I did? You can obviously criticize this or that on the pens made by Duke and Hero but I am definitely sure that those two pens, manufactured in small quantities, are future classics and fully collectibles instruments.



Edited by JeanMichelF, 14 July 2009 - 16:17.


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#2 jd50ae

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 11:50

I have been using the "Duke" version for a number of years and I am very happy with it.
Your review, IMHO, is right on the money.

#3 Elisablue

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 12:09

Wow ... This is a beautiful review , Jean-Michel ... I must say I really like the Duke , which is a festival of blue !!

smile.gif



#4 jojopointcom1

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 13:12

Great review, thanks a lot Jean Michel rolleyes.gif
Ça serait super de la traduire et de la poster sur forum.styloplume.net wink.gif

#5 bardharlock

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 13:21

The Duke nib looks like it might be flexible with those cut outs on the side. Great review and I loved seeing the two pens side by side. Chinese pens are now very much on my radar after finally trying a Hero 650, which I reviewed yesterday.
"In this world... you must be oh, so smart, or oh, so pleasant. Well for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

#6 PatientType

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 19:18

A fantastic review! You've inspired me to check out these higher range Chinese pens. This Duke is the first I've run across that is a true (not plated) 18K gold nib from China.

Thank you for taking the time and care to do a magnificent job. Wow! You really covered all the bases with links to history of the opera, professional looking pictures, and lots of detail on the size, characteristics, and impressions made by the two pens.

#7 MYU

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 21:13

Bravo on a superb first review! Actually, it's exceptional even if it wasn't your first. And your command of English is excellent, Jean Michel. Thanks for the effort. It is indeed a comparison, and when brands are mixed I'll index the reviews under the general "Comparison" section. But this is so well done and each pen is aptly covered, so they are indexed under both Hero and Duke. smile.gif

~Gary

Edited by MYU, 15 July 2009 - 21:14.

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#8 lovemy51

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 02:03

awesome review!!! can we see writing samples?

#9 Kabe

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 02:11

Nice reviwe, maybe a special subsection is needed for these one on one fights
The voice of this guitar of mine, at the awakening of the morning, wants to sing its joy;
I sing to your volcanoes, to your meadows and flowers, that are like mementos of the greatest of my loves;
If I am to die away from you, may they say I am sleeping, and bring me back home.
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#10 Brian

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 07:48

An informative review of some interesting pens. The Chinese appear to be learning quickly and I wonder how long before we start comparing them along the likes of the big brands. Never say never.

#11 Ondina

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:59

This is without a doubt one of the most well done, informative reviews done here. Many congratulations, great exposition, pen dissection and photography.

#12 JeanMichelF

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 13:57

QUOTE (lovemy51 @ Jul 16 2009, 04:03 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
awesome review!!! can we see writing samples?



Thanks to all of you for your kind comments. I will post some writing samples ASAP. smile.gif


JM

Edited by JeanMichelF, 16 July 2009 - 13:58.


#13 Elisablue

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 00:09

as beautiful in french as in english ...

smile.gif


merci Jean-Michel pour le fantôme de l'opéra ... smile.gif


http://forum.stylopl....php?f=26&t=216

Edited by Elisablue, 23 July 2009 - 00:10.


#14 JeanMichelF

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Posted 23 July 2009 - 14:56

And this is the writing sample you asked for...

smile.gif
JM

#15 wing6

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Posted 01 November 2009 - 23:06

Beautiful!






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