Why would anyone be mad enough to splurge $49 on a Hero 100 fountain pen, especially a Hero 100 variant that you have neither seen nor heard of? You do so because Soumitra Sanyal (@sanyalsoumitra) himself recommends it and offers to buy it for you from China during his visit there. For those of you who aren't familiar with his exploits, Soumitra-da is our resident walking and talking encyclopaedia on Chinese fountain pen matters. Just refer to his thread here to get a glimpse of his expertise and experience with the oriental pen makers and their instruments.
That is how one fine day I find myself committing to buy a 2015 New Model Hero Classic 100 (aka Hero Glorious) and a few weeks later the pen lands on my desk. A big shout out to Soumitra-da, the anonymous kind-heart and L Subramaniam for taking the effort in ensuring that the pen reaches me from China.
Usually I do not give too much emphasis on packaging since my interest lies with the pen rather than with the box. But I had to mention the packaging of the pen separately here since it is such a deviation from the normal Hero packaging that we are accustomed to seeing.
The pen comes in a large green leatherette box enclosed within a white paper sleeve. The box has the Hero logo on the bottom right corner with 1931 (the year of founding) mentioned prominently.
Once you open the box the pen is tastefully placed within a lovely green velvety bed. There is a small golden plaque with ‘Hero 100’ engraved in it. Pulling out the velvet bed, reveals a small cavity which contains the usual paperwork.
Lately there seems to be a preference towards design that emphasize heft and a certain amount of chrome or other metallic reflective surfaces in the body of the pen. Parker IM, Sheaffer 300, Jinhao 159 or Duke Chaplin are representative of this trend. These pens are typically designed to cater to an entry/newcomer clientele base who equate weight and presence of metal with quality. The Hero Glorious squarely belongs to this club.
Design wise the pen combines the traditional Hero 100 section and filling mechanism with a brass body which has been lacquered in black and inlaid with golden arches motif. The cap and body ends are fitted with golden flat ends and the cap band has a brushed metal finish. Engraved on the cap band is Hero 100 in a mix of Chinese letters and English numerals. There is a small logo engraved at the top of the clip. The black section has the traditional golden arrow inlay near the front-end. Aesthetically the pen is a mix of pleasing and over-done.
The only visual mismatch that I could discern is the aluminium joint between the section and the barrel. I have no clue why they couldn’t take the extra effort and give it a golden finish as well. I suspect they were raiding the existing parts bin and did not really want to procure any new parts and fittings that this would have entailed.
Size and Balance
The design approach that Hero has taken for this pen unfortunately means that it is a heavy pen. While do not have a measuring scale of my own, the specifications state that it is a full 45 grams. This is a serious drawback that impacts the writing experience. There copious amount of heavy brass in the barrel and even more so in the cap. Any attempt at writing with it posted had to be immediately terminated. It was just not comfortable enough. Even writing unposted wasn’t as comfortable as the classic Hero 100 which had the weight and balance nailed down to the T. A light section and heavy barrel does throw the balance for a toss and the pen felt decidedly top heavy. The weight issue is a real pity because at 142mm capped, this is the perfect size for an EDC (Every Day Carry) pen. The section design is a classic and is known to accentuate the feeling of comfort.
The pen comes fitted with the classic Hero 100 nib which is made of solid 14K gold and fine in width (tip size 0.5mm). While the pen professes to be a fine, in my writing experience it was much closer to a western EF than a western F. The original Shanghai Hero company is known to make excellent nibs and this one is no different. The nib is very smooth and if you are the sort who likes EF nibs, you should have little reason to complain. The only aspect which I wasn’t too happy about was with the ink flow. I found it on the dryer side.
Like any Hero 100, this pen too is an aerometric filler. It comes equipped with a long and slender pump style converter which is fixed. The brand name “hero” is inscribed in the pressbar in English while the converter itself has the pen model name inscribed in Chinese with English numerals. Since it has a fixed converter, the pen can only accept ink from bottles and cannot use any sort of cartridges.
On first glance the pen exudes the usual quality vibes that we are familiar with these days from the better Chinese pens. The fit and finish and the tolerances are nice and the pen seems built to last. I do however have some reservations with regards to the long term durability of the pen. The fact that it has a simple plastic section paired to a heavy brass barrel and the two are joined via an aluminium threaded joint seems to me a potential failure point. During use, the heavy metal is likely to put stress on the plastic. Assuming the section design is the same for the classic Hero 100, I do not expect the section to be designed to withstand such weight/stress. In fact, quite a few other reviews have reported sections developing cracks in the plastic section.
The original Shanghai Hero company has been in existence for long and during the period it has developed quite an impressive following of its own. The fact that it seems to be the most faked pen in China means that the original pen has got something right and has a great writing experience. The Hero glorious obviously benefits from using the same ‘business side’ of the pen. The nib despite being extra thin is very smooth and glides on paper. There is no scratchiness even on coarse or cheap paper. It is however hard as a nail and any thought of softness or flex has to be summarily banished.
Such a smooth nib is however let down by a feed that is too dry. I had loaded the pen with Pilot black ink and the pen was visibly having trouble keeping up the supply even for such a thin nib. This meant that the sensation of a well lubricated nib gliding on paper was sorely missing. Had that been there, it would have shot right at the top of my EF nib collection.
The other drawback to writing pleasure is the sheer weight of the pen. You don’t buy this pen for a better writing experience than the original classic.
Price and Value
I have observed that the price of this pen seems to be fluctuating a lot. My pen was purchased from mainland china for $49 and at the time the same pen was being sold on Aliexpress for around $80 - $120. Currently there are a couple of listings available for as low as $20 but these pens don’t come with the box. That may mean any one three things - either I paid for a $29 box or counterfeits are coming into the market or the price of the pen is genuinely coming down after the initial period is over. Whether the pen is VFM or not depends a lot on what the final price comes to be. For a brass bodied solid pen with a genuine 14K nib, the sum of $20 seems very reasonable while $49 is stretching the case a bit. Any figure above $60 would in my opinion make the pen non VFM since QC is not known to be equivalent to western standards.
The measurements mentioned in this section were not taken with any precision measurement instruments and you would have to settle for the approximate measurements I made using a normal ruler. However, the measurements I am providing should give you a clear indication of what to expect from the pen.
Length (capped) – 142 mm
Length (uncapped) – 121 mm
Length (cap) – 63 mm
Length (section) – 43 mm
Maximum width – 12 mm
Weight – 45 gm (Not measured and as per specifications)
This is the section where I usually summarize my findings and either recommend or reject the pen. Frankly speaking, I am a bit conflicted on this pen for a variety of reasons. Firstly because of the ongoing price fluctuations, I would advise a wait and watch approach to see it pans out. Secondly the design of the pen and the weight won’t suit everyone. I personally found it a bit too over the top for my taste and the weight a bit tiring. But if you are of the sort that such models, then you would be delighted by this pen.
Nitpicking aside, it’s a relatively nice writer and the brand itself has an impressive legacy. The size is just ideal to make it an EDC (Every Day Carry) pen and it fulfills that role fabulously. Should you go for it, I have no doubt that you would enjoy it.