Duke is a relatively new brand. The factory is in Shanghai, China. I understand that Duke nibs (or at least the nibs' engineering, and possibly other aspects of Duke pens' design and/or engineering) are from Germany.
I paid about $27 plus sales tax for my Complete Esteem at Vroman's here in Pasadena.
The Complete Esteem's nib seems unique to this model. I haven't seen it on other Duke models, either in person or in photographs. More about the nib in a moment.
The pen comes in a large, beautiful presentation box inside a beautiful, foil-covered and textured outer box; all this is a pleasant surprise for the pen's price.
The whole pen is sleek and beautiful.
The barrel and cap are enameled brass (the available colors are what I'd call ecru and "Forbidden City" red), and the section is some kind of metal.
The grip area on the section is comfortably contoured in a shape that reminds me of a bamboo section boundary.
The pen is heavy.
The cap snaps on.
The trim rings and clip are gold plated, as is the bottom end of the barrel. In the trim ring at the top of the cap, there is a colored, smooth, "jewel" (probably plastic; ruby-colored on my ecru Esteem).
The reservoir is aerometric-style, sqeeze-fill. The sac is some type of black and opaque plastic, which I guess would be tough enough for lifetime (or at least a career) of fillings. Because of that opacity, I don't know whether it's a true aerometric (with an internal tube partway up the sac), or not.
The pen does not deposit ink in the cap, even being tossed around in a portfolio (while pointing every which way) in my book bag .
Exception: a bit of ink does get deposited in the cap when I drop the closed pen onto the floor.
Back to that delightful nib:
I have called it "fine by non-East-Asian standards" in previous postings, but now I'd call it "extra fine by non-East-Asian standards." It is gold plated.
The shape of the nib is unique, fascinating, and difficult to describe without a photograph (sorry), but I'll try.
The nib on the smaller side of the size range, and it seems "art deco."
It is not hooded.
The tip material is a distinct but proportionally pleasing ball.
The nib's slit is the apex of a ridge of flat sides which are angled upward toward the slit.
The part of the nib closest to the section is incomplete-cylindrical in order to accomodate the airhole, which is under the nib and not in the nib (Lamy Safari style; the hole in Safari nibs is not an airhole).
The "Duke" brand name, in English cursive, is inscribed at an angle across the top of the nib, "Du" starting from sectionward and left of the slit, and "ke" continuing pointward and right of the slit.
The entire comb of the feed must be inside the section because only a smoothly contoured backing under the nib (with the airhole where that backing meets the section) is visible.
My Complete Esteem pen is filled with Noodler's Black, which creeps a bit onto the nib but has not been deposited inside the cap (except when the closed pen is dropped onto the floor).
Now, for how it feels to write with (drumroll, please) :
Delightful :)9 :)9 :)9
on every grade of paper!
It always starts up with the first touch to paper, even after a week of sitting capped .
It is as smooth as my Pelikan M200 fine (medium by East Asian standards) and my Lamy Safari medium and broad (broad and double broad by East Asian standards). :)9
It is smoother than both my Safari extra fine and my memory of my Sheaffer Javelin fine, which is saying a lot because those two are smooth for their sizes. :)9
It never snags up fibers from paper, even cheap paper. :)9
Now, here is why the Complete Esteem is not my #1 favorite anymore:
The ink reservoir's capacity is small.
The clip is too tight for pocket edges that aren't protected. I've always had to pry the clip up with a fingernail while inserting the pen into any of my pockets.
The heavy cap doesn't post securely. However, since the sealer inside the cap is plastic, pushing and twisting a bit while posting does make the cap stay posted on the barrel most of the time.
The gold plating on the trim ring where the section meets the barrel, a ring which is also touched by the cap, began to wear off after a few weeks of daily writing use. I guess I'm not gentle to my daily-use pens.
I've gone back to my Lamy Safari extra fine for daily extra fine point use.
The Complete Esteem is now for marking my students' papers and writing in non-blue-and-black colors.
Edited by Goodwhiskers, 01 February 2006 - 18:37.