In September 2017 on this Blog, I said I had been Peking into a few of the recent Chinese fountain pen offerings and suggested I was finding Mao and Mao to like!
Enter 2020 and the Chinese are really showing that they're not "cloning" about, with the release of the Moonman F9.
OK; enough puns I hear you say, so let's go straight to a quick overview of the Moonman F9 that arrived in my post box today. This is not one of my full reviews, as the pen is just new, but just a few short observations and a little musing.
Back in 2016, Montblanc introduced a new pen in commemoration of 110 years since the release of the original Montblanc Rouge et Noir in 1906. The pen was a departure from the usual Montblanc offering; and had a few tongues dangling with excitment. (My Blog review of the pen is here: Rouge et Noir review ).
In more recent times, Montblanc released a variation on the "new" Rouge et Noir which they called the Spider Metamorphosis. The new version was the same pen but swapped the Snake for a spider garnish on the cap, clip and nib.
These were lovely looking pens (if you're into snakes and spiders at least). The Snake gave Montblanc lovers a chance to drink again the Agatha Christie Writers Edition - Light. It had the curly snake clip with, in the coral edition, gems in the eyes of the snake and a two tone nib featuring a snake's head. The black version had a single tone rhodium coated nib. It was a weighty pen (inspite of its narrow girth) and became an instant classic. The Spider version (the web edition?) had an almost deco design to the spider clip; and was similarly well received. The pen was also, for Montblanc, relatively affordable (around US$650) on release, and is available on-line currently for prices varying from $665 to $1168 on my best searches.
Now enter Moonman, a Chinese brand that has been gaining recognition more and more of late. Let's not mince words, the F9 is a very clear clone of the 2016 Montblanc Rouge et Noir; and it can be obtained in the black or coral and with the snake or spider design. But at US$23.90 (including postage and before local taxes) it's clearly not like-for-like and my expectations are low.
I chose the black, as I already have an original in coral, forked out my money and waited to see what happened.
When the F9 arrived I was surprised.
Firstly it was quick (in a Covid-19, lock-down climate that is no mean feat!)
Secondly, the packaging eclipsed Montblanc's original packaging by a long way: black slip-on sleeve over a wooden box subtly branded Moonman, inside of which a clever slip of paper reveals cap and snake only before being removed to reveal the whole pen snuggly nuzzled in its niche. Impressive.
To the pen. Well it looks like it's meant to. Good start. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel as "cheap" as I expected. Indeed, it doesn't feel cheap at all. There is a good weight to the pen; not as weighty as the original, but not much lighter. The Finial doesn't boast the custard pudding of the original (then it really would be a copy wouldn't it?) but a stylised exclamation mark (or at least that's what it looks like to me).
It's a piston filler (or at least I can't see if it's a captured converter - which I heavily suspect). And once I ink it, it drawers in the ink well and writes extremely adequately.
There are a few subltle differences from the original:
- It's longer: 14cm capped (the orignal is 13.5cm); uncapped 12.8cm (about the same as the original)
- The piston ring is mildly broader
- the section is a glossier metal finish (may be a touch more slippery than the original?)
- The snake head is a bit larger than the original
- The custard pudding top has a touch less self-raising flour - and didn't rise quite as much as the original.
but for all intents and purposes, this is essentially the same pen.
So here comes the philosophical quandry (and the issue leading to lots of angst amongst my IG brethren):
Should the pen community support the production and selling of a pen that is clearly a copy of another?
As good a copy as the F9 is of the Montblanc Rouge et Noir, it is not the Montblanc Rouge et Noir; and it doesn't claim to be. The materials, the branding and the price are all clear indicators of differences. I own cheap copies of expensive watches and I enjoy them. I know they are not IWC or Rolex; but they work, they emulate a great design, I can afford them, and I'm happy. This is all the F9 is: a fountain pen that takes it cues (heavily) from Montblanc; but isn't.
Now let the debate continue (while I write it down with my F9)