When you saw the pictures, you probably thought this was a Montblanc 149 review … I know that everybody’s waiting for it! But this is not that pen. This is the Jinhao 159 – the Montblanc 149’s younger (and significantly cheaper) cousin, direct from China. Jinhao are famous (infamous?) for their “inspired” designs, borrowing elements from everything from Parker to Montegrappa. The 159 is one of their most popular offerings, and receives hate and love alike from pen enthusiasts. So, what do I think? Read on to find out…
This is a brilliant design. The black cigar shape is iconic. Unfortunately, it didn’t originate on this pen. There’s debate as to when the first cigar shape came out, but consensus seems to be that it was popularised by Montblanc, regardless of who actually had it first. Still, if Jinhao are borrowing designs, you’ve got to give credit for at least a copy of a good one. The 159 is comfortable in the hand, fitting nicely in between the fingers even during long writing periods. Unfortunately, the screws are large and sharp – and metal – and I’ve genuinely had cuts on my fingers after excessive writing with this pen. Still, for short writing – and more importantly, for sitting on a shelf on display – this is a good pen.
This pen was less than £3. Even if it looked like a Montblanc, I didn’t expect it to write like one. In fact, given my prior experiences with Chinese pens, I was going to be happy if it wrote at all. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s no Sailor, but it’s not bad. There are some ink flow issues, some false starts, some tooth, but not enough to stop me from writing with it. It’s pretty smooth, certainly when it’s fully inked, and the weight of the pen (more on that later) ensures that the ink runs nicely onto the page. It has a big nib as well, and has a fair amount of flex for a steel nib. It claims that it’s gold plated – I’d be very surprised – but it does have a sort of rugged, industrialist, mass-produced beauty to it.
This pen is HEAVY. It’s solid metal (no idea what metal, sorry), and it’s bigger than my duofold. If you’re ever looking for a paperweight – or an instrument to smash a window with – the 159 is for you. Still, because of the size, it’s not that noticeable when you’re writing. Regardless, it is noticeable when you’re carrying the thing, and I can’t say I’d like to have this in a suit pocket.
Unlike it’s Montblanc counterpart, this is a C/C filler (what did you expect for £5?) I wouldn’t mind, except that it’s the worst converter I’ve ever used, and I really don’t feel like dishing out money for ink cartridges. At best, I can get it half full. Usually I don’t bother, and I’ll be out of ink after less than a page. It’s a shame really, because I could quite enjoy using this pen.
This is not a bad pen. It writes – just about. It looks good – just about. You can get ink in it – just about. It’s actually not a bad back up, and looks quite professional from a distance, and then nib is easily exchangeable, so if you ever have a desire for a pen with a whole range of nibs, you could do worse than the 159. Part of the problem is that it’s too easy to compare this to the Montblanc 149 – a pen which can be over 1000 times the price. This is unfair to the Jinhao. And the 149 isn’t always better. If I had to chose a pen to drop down a flight of stairs – I know which one I would choose!
By Oliver Jack Bennett