When I first started to get into fountain pens, I was pretty much in awe of the YouTuber Pelahale. His depth and breadth of knowledge was astounding. I'm sure many have seen his "Heartbreaking Pens of Staggering Genius" videos on Aurora 88 and Parker 51 pens. For the longest time I was determined to add a PFM to my collection. I finally did get myself a vintage Aurora 88.
I remember watching this video on high-end Japanese pens and learning about the Pilot Custom 823. Pelahale called it the true user flagship in the Pilot lineup. He liked the larger ink capacity of the vac filling mechanism. The opinions stuck in my head but I was not ready to spend anything close to that money for a pen so it went no further.
Wing Sung has released the Wing Sung 699, their version of the Pilot Custom 823. It sells on Taobao for under US$15 for the steel nib version. A 14K gold nib version is around US$60.
PenHabit reviewed of the Pilot Custom 823 and included the dimensions of the pen. The Wing Sung certainly resembles the 823 and according to the numbers, the size is essentially the same.
|Wing Sung 699||Pilot Custom 823|
|Section diameter||10.9 - 11.9mm||10.9 mm|
|Inked weight capped||30.05g||29g|
|Inked weight uncapped||20.55g||20g|
The 699 vac filling mechanism works well. Pull the plunger out, put the nib in ink and depress the plunger. The negative pressure draws ink into the barrel. A couple of repetitions gets the pen quite full.
The flaring is internal to the barrel so there's no bulge like the Wing Sung 3013 or TWSBI Vac 700. The pen has a beautifully svelte look to it.
The 699 has a shutoff valve, aka airplane mode. When the blind cap is fully tightened, the plunger seals the section and cuts off ink flow to the feed. To write more than a paragraph or two, you need to loosen the blind cap to enable ink flow. For vac-filler users, this is par for the course.
The plunger threads into the barrel but there are no flat spots on the blind cap threads to fit at tool. Fingers were enough to unscrew the mechanism.
The nib and feed are friction fit and come out of the section easily enough. The pen doesn't use a screw in nib collar. The steel nib model is available only in Fine. The 14K gold nib version has Fine and Medium nib options.
What is interesting is that the 699 nib is larger than the nib in the Wing Sung 626/627. By total length, the nib is just shorter than a PenBBS nib.
But when compared breather hole to the tip of the nib, they are about the same.
As for nib swapping, the story doesn't look very hopeful. The 699 feed is smaller in diameter than a PenBBS feed. A PenBBS feed won't go into the section. It may be possible to force a PenBBS nib on the 699 feed but the fit would be tight. It might go on but never want to come off again. The effort could damage the section.
A standard #6 nib doesn't fit at all.
The Wing Sung 699 is certainly a handsome pen. The Wing Sung logo appears at the top of the clip. The cap band is the most ornate of any I've come across recently with interesting rectangular cutouts along the top edge. The engraving on the cap band reads Wing Sung 699 Made in China.
The cap comes off in a single turn and includes a cap liner to seal then nib. The threads are fine, engage positively and haven't shown any tendency to cross thread.
The cap posts perfectly, both with the blind cap closed and open. Inside the cap, a series of vertical ridges grip the end of the barrel when posting. They also add a subtle design interest to the cap.
The gold rings at the top of the finial and the blind cap have a single ridge that adds to the overall sophisticated look of the pen. There's also a gold ring between the section and the barrel.
The pen is offered in two variations based on the section: an opaque near-black section that matches the blind cap and finial cap and a semi-transparent section of the same material as the barrel.
Wing Sung appears to have made an early release of this pen with just 100 examples. I purchased one of that lot. Since that time, more have become available and the price has gone down. My original example was RMB 160 or just over US$23. I've now ordered a second for only RMB 96, or just under US$14 (plus shipping).
Why a Second Pen?
I ordered a second identical model mainly to see if the minor flaws in my first one have been corrected. I ran into a couple of odd things with this pen.
The tipping was decidedly uneven. Under the loupe the nib was not a pretty site. After a fair amount of micromesh work, the nib wrote well enough, but still represented sub-par QC.
The final half turn of the blind cap caused the plunger to skew to the side of the barrel. Until that last bit the plunger stayed nicely centered. As far as I could tell, this had no effect on how the plunger sealed (or how the pen wrote) so wasn't a real concern. But it's hard to believe that's how it's supposed to work.
The cap and barrel both had a couple of small flaws that you don't usually see on PenBBS or Moonman pens. Spots. In other words, the finish on the plastics wasn't perfect. Just 99.9%
I should receive the second pen (and a replacement nib for the first pen) in a couple of days. It will be useful to compare.
The second pen and replacement nib arrived. Both new nibs look good.
The new pen also passes muster in the other two areas I found. The plunger doesn't skew during the final turn and the cosmetics are excellent. I haven't found any flaws. Good news!
In the Hand
In short, the Wing Sung 699 is superb in the hand. I love the size, weight and balance. It is equally comfortable posted and unposted. The section feels natural and the threads are unobtrusive to the point of being nearly non-existent. You can hold this pen any which way. This is a very nice pen.
The feed certainly keeps up and the pen writes a wet line. The nib did take work to make it usable - and it is still not perfectly smooth - but I am hoping that the next examples will be better. (Note: They are.)
The Wing Sung 699 is a pen for aficionados. Truth be told, it's not that convenient to open the blind cap every time you want to write more than a few lines. And the blind cap tends to rattle when it's open. Wing Sung warns that if you pull the plunger back too far with the pen full of ink, you may get an unhappy surprise when you push it back in.
So I'm not sure if this is a pen to gift a newbie. On the other hand, the Wing Sung 699 is designed after the Pilot Custom 823 and the Pilot pen is one of the towering greats. In the right hands, there's a world of fountain pen enjoyment to be had.
Are you all in for this pen?
Clear Version, Silver Trim and M Nib
Wing Sung has released a clear version of the pen with silver trim and a silver M nib. There is also a brown version with silver trim and a silver M nib.
The medium nib is smooth and just a bit springy. It's an excellent new option for this pen.
More often that not, my desk is my pocket. But everyday desk items doesn't have the same ring.