Chinese pens – fakes, clones or homages?

There has always been a bit of negativity surrounding some Chinese pen brands because some people consider many of their pens to be “copies” of well-known European or American classic pens. But are they really fakes … or clones … or are they just taking some styling cues and paying “homage” to the great brands? Let’s examine some of the facts. 

A genuine Montblanc Meisterstück 146 from the 1990s – one of the most heavily copied/cloned pens of all time


I think these are probably the easiest to define: fakes not only copy the design accurately but they also copy the brand trademarks and try to deceive the buyer by pretending to be the genuine article. It’s this act of deception that singles them out as counterfeits/fakes.

The commonest victims of this fraud are Montblanc and it would take 5 seconds on AliExpress to discover many pens that have the Montblanc white star and have “Montblanc – Meisterstück” written around the cap band. If you are buying a Montblanc the most obvious things to check for are:

  • a nib that attracts a magnet – gold is non-magnetic but a steel nib made to look like gold is 
  • a cap that when you shine a strong light through doesn’t shine red – Montblanc’s “precious resin” has a red hue to it when a light is shone through.
  • a serial number that when Googled comes up in lots of articles on fakes

There isn’t a comprehensive list of ways to spot fakes though and the fakers are getting better and better at it so always be careful and buy from a trusted source. I tend to buy second hand and look for pens that show appropriate signs of age and use.


Pilot Custom 74

At the other end of the spectrum are the many pens that take some styling cues from the classics but don’t go too far because they do not copy the fine details. Pens from Pilot, Platinum & Sailor might have a cigar shape but have their own style of clip and perhaps have a different number of cap bands to a Montblanc. Clearly there is nothing wrong with these because Montblanc would have sued them years ago if they felt that they were impinging on their copyright in any way.

Platinum #3776


Wingsung 630 (this one being a flat-ended red-transparent variant), Montblanc Meisterstück 146 and Wingsung 629 in blue

Here is where the bulk of the issues sit – pens that are clearly very close copies of the original but which do not impinge on any tradmarks and which clearly mark the product as being by the Chinese company. They might also offer the pen in different colours to the original and might even go so far as to make changes to the design to make the pens unique. 

Here are a few copied models of pen with their Chinese counterparts:

  • Parker “51” (vintage): Hero 329, Wingsung 601 [both brands also copy the “61”]
  • Montblanc Meisterstück 146: Wingsung 629, Majohn P136, Jinhao x150 [available in many more colours – the P136 also has a stub nib]
  • Montblanc Meisterstück 149: Wingsung 630 [available in more colours, including demonstrators, and with flat-ended versions]
  • Pilot Custom 823: Wingsung 699 [the clone is also a vacuum filler and is available in all the usual colours PLUS blue, but only a few nib widths]
  • Sailor Pro Gear Slim: Jinhao 84 [available in a huge array of colours but only a few nib widths]
  • Lamy 2000: Jinhao 80 [available in one or two extra colours]
Lamy 2000 above & Jinhao 80 below – when capped they are very similar but uncapped the Lamy 2000 has the brushed aluminium grip while the Jinhao is black plastic. 

I have no problem with clones because you know exactly what you are getting: a cheaply made, mass produced product; with a pretty good steel nib (most Chinese nibs now are excellent) but only available in a few nib widths; sent out in cheap packaging or just a plastic bag; with a much lower degree of quality control and no customer support backup should anything go wrong. This means that you might get a dud pen but if you complain then they’ll just send you out another – you’re effectively doing the quality control for them. You get what you pay for but they are still usually very good pens. 

Pilot Custom 823
Wingsung 699

I’d also bet that the original brands also probably have no problem with clones either. If you have the spare cash to spend £500 on a gold nibbed, classic Montblanc pen then you will probably not be tempted by a cheap, steel nibbed Wingsung 630. Vice versa, someone skimming the listings on AliExpress with a budget of £20 isn’t going to spend £500 on the Montblanc. The business models and customer bases are completely different.

But I bet that a few people who buy a Wingsung might actually like it so much that they are drawn into fountain pen use and collecting and eventually could save up to buy the Montblanc. I’ve actually done that many times – using a cheap Chinese pen to test whether I like the feel of a pen design in the hand before buying the real thing. The Wingsung 699 is such a lovely pen in the hand that I went on to buy a Pilot Custom 823 because I wanted that design with the gold nib “upgrade”. On the flipside I bought the Jinhao 84 and felt that it was too small for my hands and so I didn’t buy the Sailor Pro Gear Slim but I did get the larger Pro Gear. [To tell the truth, I actually did get a Pro Gear Slim once, just to be sure, and I still didn’t like it much – the Jinhao 84 is a very good copy and a great way to tell if you will like the real one!] 


I find some of the negativity surrounding clones to be a bit tiresome and quite elitist too. The arguments tend to come from people with plenty of money who have been collecting high-end fountain pens for a while and they seem to also carry a fairly large chip on their shoulders about Chinese products. You’ll hear comments like “Oh you bought Chinese? Well it’ll be rubbish and you can’t expect anything else.” or “Don’t buy these Chinese pens – they are stealing company’s designs“, etc etc. 

They could say the same about many pen designs from Japan (by Pilot, Sailor & Platinum) because they are clearly very close to Montblanc but these nay-sayers seem OK about them – perhaps because they are preceived to have reached the status of high-end brands now. But I remember the days not long ago when “Made in Japan” was mocked as just cheap rubbish, rather like Chinerse products are being labelled now. But just as we were complacent about Japan and it cost us large parts of our manufacturing industries; we are playing the same games with China and it will cost us even more if we don’t recognise when they make good enough products.

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