Jinhao 159. I am personally not fond of the pen. But it still warrants to be celebrated for what it is – an excellent writing instrument!
The Jinhao 159 is like a childhood crush – everyone has one, but very few are willing to admit it in public, leave alone showing it off as a trophy. This is more so in India, where there is a strange love-hate, xenophobic aversion to all things Chinese, more a kind of a longing to be seen as “politically correct” by denouncing products emanating from China, their price to quality ratio be damned. Yes, vested interests, who incidentally cannot hold a fig’s leaf in front of these pens, gleefully fan such hysteria, but I guess that is obvious and I’d rather not rush in where angels fear to tread.
But let us not digress. The Jinhao 159 is the flagship of the Shanghai Qiangu Stationery Co Ltd, an entity specialising in the manufacture of writing instruments. The company was established in 1988 in Jiangxi Province, but relocated to Shanghai in 2003. The company has two manufacturing factories and employs about 300 workers. Yes, 300 workers. And remember, the per capita productivity in China is much higher than that in many neighbouring countries, which means that the Shanghai Qiangu Stationery Co Ltd manufactures an obscene number of writing instruments. Some say that the company is the perfect example of what can be achieved when Chinese inventiveness is married with western manufacturing prowess. That is another way of saying that Jinhao makes pens that are, at the price points in which they are offered, impossible to replicate. Little wonder that the Jinhao brand enjoys the kind of visibility and presence it does in the west, even in the very matured, quality sensitive markets.
Now back to the 159. Many call it the poor man’s Montblanc, for the likeliness to the mighty Meisterstück 149 is uncanny to put things mildly. The Jinhao 159 is a large, heavy fountain pen with a cartridge converter system. It comes with a metal body with plastic overlay, a screw cap, and is typically fitted with a medium #6 steel nib. Closed it is 149mm in length, while posted it is 163mm. Its weight, without ink, is 50 grams. For big, heavy hands, there is a few other weapons that are as pleasurable to wield, they say. At a price that is a fraction of what one would pay for the icon from which this zeppelin shaped instrument had taken its inspiration, if one were to factor in the sheer writing pleasure it accords, it would be a steal.
But there are reasons why I don’t like the Jinhao 159. For one it is a metal pen. And I am not particularly comfortable using metal pens. Call it my personal quirk if you may, but that is what it is. I may add that many moons ago, when we were in school and fountain pens were the norm, the metal bodied pens regularly had the colour coatings peeling off, exposing ugly metals underneath, their pockmarks having embedded a deep revulsion in my mind. Experts point out that these days, with technologies reaching the heights that they have, such chances are rare and the lacquering in the Jinhao 159 is virtually indestructible, still. I feel yuck!
The second reason is that I don’t have the big, beefy hands that are ideally suited for pens of such girth and weight. I don’t mind using heavy pens from time to time, in fact, there are quite a few of them that I simply adore, but to be honest, the Jinhao 159 is not among them. Besides, the shield shaped plate on the clip, on which the Jinhao crest is etched, is, again my personal feeling, somewhat repulsive, giving the pen the look of a logo encrusted gift from a medicine company.
However, the real reason for my dislike is perhaps my obsession with Montblanc pens. I somehow have this weird (?) compulsion of looking down at everything the tries to pass off as an original, or owes its origin, even remotely, rightly or wrongly, as a me-too product. Besides, the warmth, the feel of the resin of the 149 can just not be compared to the cold, steely demeanor of the Jinhao.
So why did I buy this Jinhao 159? Various reasons. For one I wanted to review the pen as many people have asked me for one. Secondly, perhaps more importantly, because I wanted to test and write with a fude, the bent nib. I have heard many handwriting and lettering experts say that the Jinhao 159 is a kind of go-to pen for them so far as writing with the fude nib is concerned. I just had to get myself one as I felt that the flourish with which I wanted to end writing my name, just couldn’t wait any longer.
Then, what is the final verdict? It was not meant to be the pen that I will adore and it will never be. But respect as a writing instrument? The Jinhao 159 has surely earned mine. And yes, it is worthy enough to write its way into any serious fountain pen lover’s collection. And heart.
You can check out youtube video here: