My new batch of pens has arrived, all Hero '51 clones from iSellPens.
I got the 329 because I have one of the older model 329s, and Internet comments suggest that the newer ones are better built. I got the Jumbo 616 because of its larger size, and the 100 because general opinion is that it is the best of Hero's '51 clones.
Fit and finish on all four pens is quite good, especially for the price. I found only two inelegancies -- one on the 616 and one, surprisingly, on the 100. Where the clip is attached to the cap on the 616, there are little gaps in the seams. It is a strong assembly, just a little clunky. You can see it in the photo, compared to the 51 cap below. The barrel on the 100 is not concentric with the clutch ring, and there is a little step on the right hand side. However, you don't feel it as you write, as your fingers hold the pen below the clutch ring.
The caps on all four pens are push-on and fit well, at least when new. The clips on the new-style 329 and the 616 are fixed to the top of the cap, and are sturdy and solid. The 100 and the old-style 329 have spring-mounted clips, with the one on the 100 looking that little bit sleeker.
All four pens are based on the Parker 51. They have the same type of hooded nib and similar design of section, barrel and cap. Mine all have plastic barrels, but you can get the 100 with a stainless-steel barrel. They would all be classed as light pens, but all post securely if you want a little extra weight. All four pens are pretty much the same length, with the 616 Jumbo just that little bit thicker (which is why I bought it).
The old-style 329's nib is gold plated and iridium-tipped. The new-style 329 and the 616 are steel nibs, and close examination with a loupe shows they are both tipped, but it is not as obvious as the older 329. The 100 comes with a 14k gold nib and a definite tip.
The nibs on all four pens are in the very fine range, which I like. Using Jose's nib width chart, mentioned by wimg , with Richard Binder's classification from his Stroke Width Chart, the results work out like this --
The new-style 329 writes with the finest line, and is a little scratchy on some papers. Its shape is simply not as good as the other nibs. The old-style 329 and the 616 are very similar to each other, and both write a very smooth and liquid line. The 100 is the smoothest writer of the lot, its nib justifying the extra cost of this pen.
Compared to a real Parker 51, you can see and feel the differences. But, they are not that great. It will be interesting, though, to see how many 329s and 100s are still around in 50 years. Of the four pens, the 100, apart from the flaw in the clutch ring, has the highest quality and is the smoothest writer. The old-style 329 and the 616 closely follow. The fit and finish of the new-style 329 is a little better than the other 329 and the 616, but it is let down by the quality of the nib, and the fact that there is stamped-on lettering on the cap.
Has anybody else compared the new- and old-style pens?