[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.
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
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.