The Duke "Greek Key"
1) Model & specifications
The Duke "Greek Key" (Note; Greek key is not the official model name, I actually dont know what the model name is thus I took my queue from him) is a high end offering from the Shanghai G.Crown Fountain Pen also known as Duke.
It is 13.7cm (5-1/2″) capped and 16cm (6-1/4″) posted.
2) Size, Feel & Appearance
Its a medium size fountain pen although size is completely subjective.
I like my fountain pens to be truly over sized in the Montblanc 149 category thus for me it is a medium pen, you might think otherwise!
It feels reasonably high quality- externally at least with a lacquer that reflects light beautifully- very deep.
I would describe it as refined, it is certainly not made of plastic in either feel or appearance.
The centerpiece of this pen is the cap, it features 5 cloisonne bands in a Greek key pattern and I have to admit that the bands are the sole reason I love this pen along with the Chinese lacquer.
The bands are just incredibly well manufactured and I often find myself turning the cap against the light in various angles just to see them glisten beautifully.
The clip is cheaply made out of sheet metal that has been stamped into shape and happens to be the biggest negative (outwardly atleast) of the pen.
This is a 125$ fountain pen.
A member of the high end line of Duke.
Sheet metal? Seriously!? Its like they are not even trying! Such a beautiful cap sadly ruined with tacky, cost saving (Potty Mouth).
The top of the cap features the Duke logo- Nothing much to add, its not particularly nice but you cant see any glaring manufacturing defects with the naked eye!
The end of the body has a rather ugly chromed button that cuts the flow of the design rather abruptly- I would have preferred the button to be domed to a certain degree or at least not as mundane as it is!
Near the end their are 2 chrome bands, they are not flush with the body and while I would normally penalize them for such a fault I am not entirely certain that it is a defect- perhaps it is a requirement for the cap to be able to stay posted.
While the materials are premium, brass body, Chinese lacquer and gorgeous cloisonne Greek key bands I find certain aspects to be so badly finished that I am amazed they are found on a 125$ pen. The inside of the cap is not even cleaned up & features manufacturing marks left bare in a way that can be viewed when placing the cap back on.
On a French, German or Japanese made fountain pen in a model costing half the price you will not find this.
Such a shame.
So, how does it feel when held? Pretty damn good. The lacquer is sublime and reminds me of the S.T Dupond one, it emits a certain degree of warmth while exuding class with its luster.
The balance is pretty good and the grip section while ugly is completely functional.
3) Writing Performance
The nib is 14k gold if we are to believe the advertising, however the marks on the nib are as follows 14K 580 and as we all know 585 is the number for 14k gold, I am inclined to believe that this is a mistake & that the nib is in fact 14k gold.
Regardless, the nib is unremarkably soft with a slight spring, no bite and very little feedback. Just a pleasantly boring nib that dishes out a medium wet western fine line in a perfectly controlled fashion.
I was going to take a writing sample but it is so ordinary that you would fall asleep looking at it, it simply has no character in either end of the spectrum!
Sailor nibs are surgically accurate glass smooth nibs while on the other end vintage Waterman nibs are full of character with a demented flex launching a challenge full of jest with every down stroke.
The Duke is just Zzz.
It works and its moderately pleasant (in a pick up truck reliability sort of way) to use.
Nothing else to add.
Here is my problem, if you drop $100 + you should be able to expect a certain degree of quality, and to me the Duke just fails short of that.
We always give Chinese pens an easy pass- "oh but its so cheap and in a European pen it would cost millions, so we should forgive minor defects as being part of the deal" etc.
You can buy a Sailor Procolor 500 or Waterman Phileas for half the price of this pen and you will not have the defects this has.
Duke has failed in producing a high end pen, because besides the Greek key bands & lacquer, it just doesn't seem like a luxury writing tool after you look at it closely, and I find myself thinking the Chinese should stick to making cheap fountain pens that provide agreeable value and writing performance for the grand total of 10 bucks since clearly they are not ready to engage themselves in high end goods.
I own 2 Duke pens besides this one and neither of the other two cost more than $30, and I am truly content with them.
The only reason I will be keeping the Greek key is because of the cap design (minus the clip) which I am very fond of.
Unless future Duke pens reach a level of quality that I have come to expect out of Japan and Europe I wont be acquiring any from the high end models again.
In conclusion; I find that shoddy cost saving "features" are emblematic of the way China deals with its high end products, great materials utilized by workers who are used to designing and assembling cheap ballpoints.
Its a second hand Toyota with a nice paint job, it will reliably get you from A to B, but its just not a BMW.
[By the way A+ is a way of saying see you later in French (A plus!), and it is not a grade!]
Edited by encre, 17 February 2010 - 23:07.