The Shanghai Hero Pen Company has been in existence since 1931. It started life as the Huafu Pen Factory, which was renamed in 1966. Hero is but one of their brand pens. With over 80 years of pen manufacturing behind them, the Hero Pen Company is one of the oldest and largest manufacturers of pens in the world. Hero pens enjoy a high reputation for their quality in China, but also the rest of the world. They have a widespread use by pen collectors worldwide as everyday writing instruments.
Some of the Hero pens such as the models 616 and 100, are very close to identical copies of the Parker 51 fountain pen, arguably the most recognized fountain pen of all times.
At the start of this review of the Hero 616, I have to admit that I am probably hopelessly biased towards this little pen, which is also one of the most well-known fountain pens from the Hero range. The 616 crossed my path one day when I was searching the internet for a Parker 51. I simply loved the little pen right from the start, and having lived in my top pocket now for the better part of two years, I still enjoy using it.
At 130 mm long caped, 140 mm posted, it weighs in at about 15 grams. The pen alone is only about 116 mm long, and is made of a plastic, with no metal bits to add weight. The cap is a slide fit, without a positive stopper. The clutch ring is made of a clear plastic and doubles as a window for indicating the ink level. The pen is available in Black, Maroon and Teal.
The overall appearance is that of a very traditional, probably 1950-60’s torpedo-shaped fountain pen. About 2-3 mm of the medium iridium nib is protruding from underneath the hood, writing a 0.7 mm line. This is consistent with the Chinese standard for a medium nib. The cap on my Hero is metal with thin longitudinal lines running nearly the whole length. The lines stop about 3 mm from the open end, where the wording “Hero 616” is engraved in Chinese. The clip is ostentatiously a Parker arrow-design copy, and is secured to the cap with a metal, conical screw (jewel?). Ink is storage is with an aerometric filler system which is basically a rubber bladder or ink sac. Inside the sac is a thin reed, ink is sucked through this and deposited in the sac, when the sac is squeezed and a vacuum is formed. It is not interchangeable with a cartridge or converter. As is the case with most of these type mechanisms, it is quite tedious to get a good amount of ink in storage. Most of the times I filled it up only halfway. Some Hero owners gently slip the thin alluminium casing that protects the ink sac off, exposing the sac. This provides a larger surface area of the ink sac to work during the re-inking process, and makes filling slightly easier.
The weight, barrel shape and thickness of the grip area makes for a comfortable writing experience, and simply works for me. The grip area is not, as is often the case with many fountain pens with polished metal grip areas, too smooth or slippery to facilitate a good pen grip.
The nib writes reasonably smooth right from the start, although a little scratchy. I had to doodle for a while before the ink reached the nib and the pen started to write. For this review I have inked and used a brand new pen for the first time. I could feel a slight difference between this nib and the one that I have been using for more than a year now. This could indicates that some smoothing could be expected over prolonged use however it could also well be that for a writing instrument in this price range, quality control and consistency of finish is less consequent. Quality of nibs and other finish could be expected to differ. I have certainly found some barrels that came out of the packaging with marks.
I found the Hero 616 a very pleasant everyday pen to use. It has a rich and traditional appearance, far above its cost. It is priced extremely well, and is excellent value for money, even at a higher price. Because of this affordability, it lives well inside a handbag or top pocket, without too much consideration for the odd scratch or ding. Mine has even fallen on the floor on the odd occasion. This pen is strongly recommended as an entry level fountain pen, as a school pen and makes excellent gifts. It works very well with Parker Quink ink. I do have some of these pens available for sale from time to time, they go for 12.00 AU, plus postage.