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Namiki Yukari Royale versus Pilot Custom 845 http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7346/11918876405_a4b358c5a4_b.jpg Introducing the Namiki Yukari Royale in Black Urushi (top) and the Pilot Custom 845 (bottom). Both pens are resting on a Nakaya three-pen pillow in Kuro Tamenuri Urushi on top of a Midori pad. On the right is a box of Namiki Black ink. Introduction This is a long over-due comparison between two of Pilot's arguably most luxurious mainstream pens, the Namiki Yukari Royale and the Pilot Custom 845. As you all know, the Pilot Corporation uses the Namiki brand for its premium line of writing instruments, much like Toyota uses the Lexus brand and Honda uses the Acura brand for their luxury marquees. The Yukari Royale occupies the second highest rung of Namiki writing instruments, and many people have also made a case for the Pilot Custom 845 being the "flagship" of the regular line-up of fountain pens that Pilot produces, due to its comparatively high MSRP and the superior materials used in its construction. I first acquired the Yukari Royale in 2010, and found it an ideal pen to use. Over time I found myself attracted to the Pilot Custom 845 because it was similar, yet different enough so that I could justify ownership of the pen to myself. So late last year I found an 845 making its way from the sales board into my stable of pens. Some history behind these two pens, according to Fountain Pens of Japan by Andreas Lambrou and Masamichi Sunami (2012), and I paraphrase the information from this invaluable resource here. The Yukari Royale design came from a Balance model first used for the principal pen series made to commemorate Pilot's 80th anniversary in 1998. It was smaller than the #50 FFK Jumbo pen (also known as Namiki Emperor) but bigger than the standard FK Balance model (also known as Namiki Yukari). This limited edition of 1918 pens is long sold-out, but they came in black or red urushi finishes (even the clip was lacquered), and a "four animal gods" lacquer band theme around the opening of the pen cap. See this link from Namiki's website for a picture of this pen and RLD's excellent review of the Pilot 80th anniversary pen. The 845 first debuted in 2002 and its design was derived from the Pilot 75 pen (edition of 7500 pens) made to celebrate Pilot's 75th anniversary in 1993. The Pilot 75 was designed to resemble pens made in the 1930s and it sported a Kikuza clip reminiscent of 1940s-style clips. See Rokurinpapa's extensive review of the Pilot 75 pen. So how do these two pens compare, given their distinguished lineages? First up, their prices. The Yukari Royale has an MSRP of $1500 while the Pilot Custom 845 sells for around $525. Market rates of these pens brand-new hover around $1200 for the Yukari Royale and mid-to-high $400's for the 845. Fortunately, I managed to acquire both pens for much less. Are they worth their suggested retail prices? This will be up to the individual, but for me hunting for a good price is part of the fun in the pen chase. Packaging and Pen Presentation http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3716/11921486675_9a296dfab1_b.jpg The Namiki Yukari Royale pictured in its paulownia wood box. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5473/11916545376_e7e6dbba02_b.jpg Another picture of the Namiki Yukari Royale in its box. The Yukari Royale comes in a box made of paulownia wood. Included is a bottle of Pilot Blue ink as well as some literature describing the operation of the pen. Notable is a certificate attesting to the authenticity and quality of the urushi finish (not shown). According to the Namiki website, the Yukari Royale comes with a lifetime guarantee: it is "unconditionally guaranteed against failures due to faulty materials or workmanship throughout [its] life with the original owner." http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3818/11916544816_10ee357512_b.jpg The Pilot Custom 845 in its box. The 845 comes in a faux suede-covered box with a velvety-lining inside. One ink cartridge and some literature describing operation of the pen are included. A short card emphasizing the history and excellence of the urushi finish is pictured above. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5532/11919204383_8d23bbf501_b.jpg The two pens uncapped. Pen Construction and Urushi Finish On to the real comparison. The Yukari Royale is torpedo-shaped and has a underlying body of brass. Conforming to the Japanese aesthetic ideal, it is unadorned, save for a clip as well as a thin gold ring to protect the cap lip from impact. The 845, on the other hand, is styled in the tradition of the Montblanc Meisterstück series but with squared-off ends. There are five trim rings on this pen (including the one on the section) and the cap jewel has a golden ring around it as well. The 845 is made of hard rubber (ebonite), the material traditionally used to make fountain pens. The cap and barrel ends, as well as the section, are made of plastic, however. In his review, MYU had noted that the 845 is a cross between a Montblanc 149 and a Sailor Professional Gear (which itself debuted in 2003), and I concur. I first happened across the 845 in a Hong Kong shop called Winner Pens Collection (you can read my Hong Kong trip report here), and I was taken with its large, yet comfortable size. Both pens have triangular-shaped clips which terminate in a ball, making them highly usable. The Yukari Royale's clip is attached to the cap in a seamless fashion, while the 845's clip is clearly part of the gold trim at the cap end. The Yukari Royale's clip measures 41 mm in length/8 mm at the top while the 845's clip measures 38 mm in length/6 mm at the top. There are four numbers at the top of the Yukari Royale's clip, which might serve as the pen's serial number. More measurements for the statistically-minded here: the Yukari Royale is 46 g capped/29 g uncapped while the 845 is 29 g capped/18 g uncapped. Weights were measured with the converter completely filled. Dimensions: the Yukari Royale is 150 mm capped/134 mm uncapped/179 mm posted, with a diameter of approximately 14 mm, while the 845 is 146 mm capped/132 mm uncapped/165 mm posted, with a diameter of approximately 12.6 mm. Both pens are very well-balanced in the hand, no problems with comfort here. Both pens initially appealed to me because of their urushi finish. I was impressed as well with the history and legendary in-house expertise of Pilot/Namiki in urushi lacquering. The entirety of the Yukari Royale - including the section - is flawlessly lacquered in jet-black urushi lacquer. After four years of hard use, the finish remains impeccably shiny, a testimony to the durability of the lacquer finish. When I first received my 845 last year, I noticed two tiny specks in the lacquer finish towards the barrel end, which are only visible from certain angles and lighting. These specks are probably dust or imperfections in the underlying ebonite body. In any case, these defects did not bother me very much after I inked up the pen and discovered how good of a writer it was. Note that only the ebonite parts of the 845 are lacquered with urushi; the plastic cap and barrel ends, as well as the section, are not. The transition between the urushi and plastic bits of the 845 is seamless - with only the tiny and subtle "URUSHI" gold letters above the cap trim ring serving to remind one of the special lacquer finish. Peering inside the caps of both pens reveals a thin ring of felt that serves to protect the barrel end from marring, should one choose to post the cap on these urushi pens. The felt ring inside the Yukari Royale cap tends to wear away with time, but I haven't found this to affect the urushi finish during normal use. The Yukari Royale comes in both Black and Vermilion urushi finishes, as well as a variety of exquisite maki-e designs. The 845 normally comes in a Black urushi finish, but certain shops in Japan have managed to procure a special Vermilion edition (see here and here and also kmpn's blog for some absolutely breathtaking comparison photos of the Black and Vermilion edition 845 pens, amongst other pens). http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3677/11921489765_1be37c4ca4_b.jpg Comparison of the two sections with attached CON-70 converters. The Yukari Royale is inked with Pilot Blue-Black while the 845 is inked with Pilot Black. Both pens use the superior CON-70 piston converter, arguably the best converter on the market today. I shall not belabour the obvious, except to say that I have had no problems using this filling system. The urushi section of the Yukari Royale tends to stain with Pilot Blue-Black ink but can be cleaned off with some elbow grease. I have had no issues with ink staining the 845 plastic section. http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3774/11916555726_8945294163_b.jpg Close-up of the two nibs: the 845's #15 nib is two-tone while the Yukari Royale in plain urushi finishes come with monotone #20 nibs. The #20 nibs on maki-e Yukari Royale pens are two-tone (the stylized Mount Fuji on the nib is rhodium-plated), however. Writing Experience My Yukari Royale in Black Urushi has a medium #20 nib while the 845 is equipped with a broad #15 nib. The #20 and #15 are approximately the same in length, but have different shapes and feeds. Initially the Yukari Royale nib was a hard-starter. I persisted in using it for approximately six months without much improvement. While cleaning the pen one day, the centre channel rod in the feed came out (also see Richard Binder's page on feeds for more information). Naturally the pen went back to Pilot USA for warranty repair. After it returned, the pen wrote like a dream. I'm not sure what the service centre did but over the course of the last four years, this pen has become my absolute favourite to use. The nib on this pen is springy and extremely responsive, and will lay ink down at the slightest touch to paper. The date code on the nib reads "A809", indicating that it was made by the "A" machine in the Pilot Hiratsuka factory in August of 2009. See kmpn's blogpost for more information on dating Pilot nibs. My 845 pen's broad #15 nib came to me pre-adjusted by Yukio Nagahara of Sailor Pen Company during a pen clinic in India. It writes very well too, requiring absolutely no pressure to put ink onto paper. The date code on this nib is 1210, indicating that it was made in December of 2010 (Since 2010, Pilot has stopped using the "A" and "B" designations on their nibs). In comparison to the Yukari Royale nib, however, the 845 nib is rigid. I have another Yukari Royale with a broad #20 nib ( date code 712 - made in July of 2012), and the nib is inflexible as well. To me, it appears that Pilot broad nibs tend to be more rigid than their finer brethren, perhaps to cater for heavy-handed people? http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2831/11915941023_b990a2faeb_b.jpg Another close-up of the two nibs. http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3732/11916114524_8da4105d9e_b.jpg Side-profiles of the two nibs. The 845's nib tends to stick out more beyond the feed, giving the impression that the user is wielding a brush rather than a pen. http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2810/11915944563_405e387c83_b.jpg See how different the two feeds are! The Yukari Royale's feed is more finned than the 845's feed. Both feeds are made of injection-moulded plastic, however. From this picture, it is apparent that the two nibs are shaped differently as well. The shoulders of the 845 nib tend to flare out a bit more. Conclusions These two pens have excellent construction, an impeccable urushi lacquer finish, write well, and fly under the radar for most people. Either pen is definitely worthy of "grail" status. As might already be apparent from the following pictures, I have chosen the Yukari Royale as my favourite pen to own. Anyway, I hope that you have enjoyed reading this review! Size Comparison to other well-known pens Because more eye-candy is always welcome IMHO. Why would I take photos of all these pens and not share them? http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7369/11916119674_78a7fc57a0_b.jpg Both pens depicted with the Namiki Yukari Royale in Vermilion Urushi. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5520/11915945783_b74755a931_b.jpgBoth pens depicted with the Namiki Emperor in Vermilion Urushi. http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3682/11915661975_5cf6eec826_b.jpg Both pens depicted with the Sailor King of Pen in Crimson Urushi, reviewed here. http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2873/11915945153_d82eccab9b_b.jpg Both pens depicted with the Sailor Professional Gear Kanreki. http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7319/11916118974_82b36dc5a6_b.jpg Both pens depicted with the Montblanc 149. http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7343/11915937543_41a3e08573_b.jpgBoth pens depicted with the Pelikan M800 in Green. http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3834/11916118674_f73a8ea1ca_b.jpgBoth pens depicted with the Pelikan M800 in Tortoiseshell Brown. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5547/11923905185_93af11c485_b.jpg Both pens depicted with the Parker Duofold Centennial in Black. http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5477/11916119294_a1a38c6d05_b.jpgBoth pens depicted with the Nakaya Portable Writer in Shobu. A non-exhaustive listing of FPN reviews for the individual pens (Apologies in advance for any omissions) Namiki Yukari Royale: pmrogers, Archimark, enlasombra, enlasombra (again), rhk (comparison between four pens), Mkim, Painterspal, Brian. Pilot Custom 845: J-san, MYU, Hari317, Hari317 (again), seikoguy, Pen2009.