Longtime readers of this blog know that despite my primary focus on the “high-end” segment of the fine-writing industry, I have a soft-spot for bargains, especially if I find a sub-$20 pen that outperforms pens costing 3-5 times as much. Over the past year, brands such as Moonman and PenBBS have moved to the top of my list quality-wise, but it’s hard to dismiss Wing Sung. But before you write the Wing Sung 601 off as yet another cheap Chinese Parker 51 clone like those that used to sell on eBay at $5 for a pack of 6, let me assure you that all of the recent Wing Sung Pens I have tested, including not just the 601 but also the 618 piston filler, have performed exceptionally well.
The last Wing Sung pens I reviewed were the Wing Sung 618 and the 698, both piston fillers that have proven to be quite durable, despite their all-plastic construction and low price point. I still use them regularly, and my two 618 pens in particular are regularly inked. Enter the Wing Sung 601, which is a bit of a throwback to the late 2000s when Chinese pen companies flooded eBay with extremely inexpensive Parker 51 clones (more on that below), only this pen is of much better quality and uses a pump-filling “vacumatic” filling system.
Yes, you heard that right! You can now purchase a vintage-style “vacumatic” fountain pen for less than $20. And it’s far from a terrible pen. The Wing Sung 601 uses the same stainless steel hooded nib that you find on the 618. Because vacumatic/pump-filler fountain pens use the pen’s barrel as an ink reservoir (like an eyedropper), I actually find that the 601 writes a smoother, wetter line than the 618, even if the nib is still technically a fine/extra fine in width.
The downsides to vacumatic-style fountain pens are (1) they’re a pain to clean, and (2) the rubber sac/diaphragm attached to the pump will eventually wear out, probably every 2 years or so depending on how frequently you use the pen and your choice of inks. With my vacumatics (either true vintage pens or vintage-inspired modern pens), I choose one or two inks - typically a black, blue, or blue-black - to use in the pen, and stick with those colors so that I don’t have to worry about cleaning the pen to a pristine state. With respect to repairs, many people will likely choose to use a $20 pen until it breaks and then toss it in the garbage. However, I think that the Wing Sung 601 presents a low-risk opportunity to learn vacumatic repair/sac-replacement, and some eBay sellers are even offering replacement filling mechanisms.
A note on Chinese companies’ fixation with the Parker 51: Hero and Wing Sung have been producing pens “inspired by” the Parker 51 since at least the 1960s, with varying degrees of quality. It doesn’t take a vintage expert to recognize that these are NOT real Parker 51 pens, in that they don’t say “Parker” anywhere on them, though they do sport an “arrow clip.” I won’t engage in an extended discussion of the history between Parker and Hero/Wing Sung, because that’s been done elsewhere, but the conventionally accepted story is that the Chinese government nationalized a Parker factory in Shanghai at some point in the mid-20th century, and Hero (which I believe owned/owns Wing Sung) has been churning out Parker 51 clones ever since. You can read more about the current status of the Wing Sung brand, and a bit more history, at Frank’s comprehensive Chinese Fountain Pen blog, Frank Underwater.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
While a $15-20 Wing Sung pen is never going to replace an authentic vintage Parker 51 in either beauty or quality, the 601 is an inexpensive, low-risk introduction to this style of pen, particularly the vacumatic-style filling system. If you are on the fence as to whether or not you want to spend $100+ on a properly restored Parker 51, give one of these Wing Sung pens a try to see if you enjoy the shape and style. It’s a close-enough approximation, and even if you decide you don’t want to take the plunge, you have a competent everyday writer that didn’t cost a lot of money.
Wing Sung pens, including the Wing Sung 601 pens pictured here, are widely available on either eBay or Amazon. On eBay, I’ve purchased pens from Seller art-pen-book-dy, and also from Amazon, where pens are generally come with free Prime Shipping. One other thing to note is that some eBay sellers are offering replacement filling systems for as little as $2.99. This is doubly interesting to me because not only is it a cheap and easy fix for a broken Wing Sung 601, but it raises the question of whether this mechanism could be used to fix a broken Parker 51 Vacumatic, since original mechanisms are no longer in production.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I purchased the pens featured in this review with my own funds, for my own use.