This pen works really well. It's an achievement in terms of design and functionality. The more I use and understand it, the more I appreciate what the Parker 45 accomplished.
- Size - For everyday school/business use, the size works. It is unobtrusive but sturdy. Easy on the shirt pocket. The pen is big enough to use unposted but is just that much more comfortable posted. It is a slim pen.
- Weight - Unposted the pen is light and agile. Posted it feels solid but still a very easy writer.
- Nib - The semi-hooded nib ensures the pen stays ready to write. The screw-in nib-feed assembly locks in alignment and takes the guesswork out of nib maintenance.
- Cap - The friction cap is as simple and fast to use. The cap posts deeply so the posted length feels hardly longer than unposted. I haven't found that posting the cap scratches the barrel.
- Section - The section is long and smooth making it easy to grip anywhere that's comfortable.
- Filling mechanism - The pen uses cartridges or a converter, i.e., the modern standard.
Here's my take on why Parker made the 45. I'd love to hear what people more familiar with the story have to say.
By the mid 60s the Parker 51 was also showing its age.
- Nib maintenance on the Parker 51 was non-trivial and beyond what most owners could manage. If you wanted to change or repair a nib, you had to send the pen away for the work.
- The Parker 51 filling system required owners to have bottled ink on hand. If you were away from your desk when the pen ran out, you had a problem. I suspect lots of people carried a couple of pens to make sure that didn’t happen.
The Parker 45 solved both of those problems.
- The screw in nib/feed unit made swapping nibs trivial. In a pinch, owners could do it themselves. Parker advertised a free nib swapping service for 30 days after purchase.
- The Parker 45 used ink cartridges. This meant users could easily bring along spare ink and never have to worry about the pen running dry. (It could also use a converter for bottled ink.)
Parker also found ways to make the pen cheaper through new materials and improved manufacturing.
The Parker 45 was a huge hit. It caught the market at just the right moment when people were looking for better, cheaper solutions. It was only discontinued in 2007!
So why does this pen exist from a Chinese company? Blame it on Deng Xiaoping.
National Archives and Records Administration [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In the late 70s Parker decided they wanted to go to China. The market was showing signs of opening (thanks to Deng) and China offered interesting OEM possibilities. So they paid a visit and set up an exploratory project with Hero. As part of the deal they transferred the design and manufacturing process for the 45.
Parker ultimately abandoned the effort but left the IP behind as compensation for Hero’s investment. Frank Underwater tells the story from the Chinese side of things.
Hero didn’t let the knowledge go to waste. They made pens, notably the Hero 800 and now, it seems, the Moonman 80 as an OEM project for Shanghai Jindian 上海晶典. So the Moonman 80 is based on the original Parker 45 design but is produced as an authorized clone.
Moonman 80 Writing Experience
With the F nib (the pen also comes with an EF nib that I don't care for), the pen is a wet and generous writer. It requires little or no pressure. In fact, the less the better. The nib offers a useful sweet spot gives moderate feedback. Waterman Absolute Brown looks great with the F nib.
The Moonman 80 costs ¥49.00 on Taobao or less than US$7.50. It is also available in lower-cost 80s variants that come with plastic caps. (The 80s mini looks alot like a Pilot 95 Elite.) All of the Moonman 80 models use the same nib units so they should write the same.
Since I experienced the vintage Aurora 88, I’ve come to appreciate semi-hooded nib pens. The design represents an interesting approach to the problem keeping pens ready to write.
If you're a Parker 45 fan, you probably know about the Moonman 80 already. If you are just getting into fountain pens and want to see what the business was up to in the 60s, the Moonman 80 can help shed some light.
More photos and comments here.