While the West hasn’t fully convinced by this copycat, the Lorelei indeed settled the tone for the current wave of new Chinese pens.
Although it is almost impossible to see a US distributor or resellers stocking their products in large quantity, the pen makers in China have been building a steady and adorable portfolio in its domestic market over the past few years under various labels that may sound extremely familiar to you. While recently the spotlights are all targeted to the soon-coming vacumatic and plunger fillers from PENBBS and Wing Sung, I want to come back to the Lingmo Lorelei, a last year’s vanguard in this wave of new Chinese pens.
With the original Lorelei, by the time, Jingdian, the exclusive distributor, along with the factory, should have been looking to target a specific sector of the customer base, with the general design identical to the Sailor Procolor and a price tag only tenth of it. The Lorelei and its variants in acrylic, aluminum have an impressive performance within the borderline, and they even managed to earn some fame and fans in the west thanks to some diligent eBay or AliExpress resellers. Most importantly, a series of pens with similar shape and design has been rushed to the market under names such as Jinhao and Wing Sung, even other makers’ offerings which by no means could be defined as a demonstrator began to market themselves as “Lorelei” pens in the item description. Coincident with this trend, a whole new generation of Chinese fountain pens started to surface, surprising us one after another.
My question here is: to what extent a Lorelei could challenge a Sailor Procolor 500? And to answer this question, I spent months of the time of preparation and daily usage just to get things right. For the Sailor Procolor 500, I picked a Uchimizu to match the Blue Demonstrator version of the Lorelei. Before the comparison itself, I want to state my attitude about the similarity between these two pens: I dislike the way Lorelei copied the others’ look, but I do like some nice touches of design attempted by it, and since none of them is mass marketed in the US, I hope some of you hold the accusation of Lorelei’s unethical competition for a while and give me a chance to present this review to you.
General Appearance: Lorelei looks cleaner…
I hesitated for a moment when I wrote the above line, but honestly speaking, the blue Lorelei is more attractive. For an entry-level demonstrator style pen with the plastic section, and cartridge/converter filler, three more points should be credited to Lorelei since it features a clear feed, a clear nib section, and a clear converter handle, making it a full-blown demonstrator. While for the Sailor, all these three parts are opaque black plastic, which is a look too serious.
Besides that, Lorelei’s general appearance is also faultless. The blue resin is made from high-grade PC material and nicely molded, even in the part of the finials. This material resists scratches from daily uses and has no signal of cracking (learn that Jinhao). While the PMMA resin from sailor certainly sounds more professional, I can find no superiority of it over the PC. Both two pens have a chromed furniture, and both look great. I’ve used a lot of torpedo style fountain pens over the years, the best example of which should be the Sailor 1911 Large (in Fresca Blue) earlier this year, but the Lorelei still doesn’t seem to be a cheapo to my eyes.
The only excuse I can come up with to denounce this clearer outfit achieved by Lorelei is to say that the more purplish Sailor’s resin is a better-looking one or that Sailor’s branding, in the end, equals to beauty.
Construction and Build Quality: Sailor nailed it, with a but…
If you zoom into the finials of both pen and look with attention, you would find the transition and curve from the finials to the body are almost seamless and perfect in the sailor, while in the Lorelei, this transition left a small stage. Same goes for the furniture, for the converter, for the nib stamping—Sailor constantly delivered the highest level of precision and sturdiness. Besides that, the metal thread in the nib section of the Sailor added another layer of promise, reminding me of the similar construction they used in the 1911 line.
But that doesn’t mean Lorelei is a shattering pen, on the contrary, Lorelei also has a high level of precision and quality. Ever since Lorelei came out, video reviewers in the west have appraised the build quality of Lorelei, and from my user experience, its build quality can easily annihilate similar products such Delike Newmoon or Jinhao 992. The thing is, Sailor’s standard is relentless high even in its entry-level demonstrator, making the build of Lorelei just less professional under a magnifier.
But it overdid the tolerance, and the end plug of my Sailor is CRACKING. Since the lines are subtle when compared to the syndrome of a Jinhao 992, I decided to take it as a minor defect, bitterly…
In the harsh winter of New York, I have never exposed this Sailor in an outdoor environment, and I have no idea when these lines began to grow. Sometimes perfectly fit doesn’t work in industrial design, and clearly, Sailor pushed it too hard in the end plug.
Underneath the Chassis: Sailor is perfect out of box, but Lorelei has some nice twists
I like the way Sailor nibs usually work, a little bit of scratch while far from protruding the paper, in combination with an accurate line, firm reaction, and a breathtaking look. The nib from this Procolor, though a steel one, is no different. The company claims that this nib is plated with chrome, but in effect, it looks awfully like a Rhodium plated nib. I believe this nib is also the same nib what Taccia gets from Sailor for its $100 range. What’s also perfect is the performance of the feed, the converter, the rubber rings (one of them can prevent ink from entering the feed sleeve), and the hefty metal thread in the section. It writes like a dream out of the box and has been serving me well. A tested solution here, in summary.
In comparison, the Lorelei’s steel nib is lackluster and performs much worse in writing since the nib worker didn’t want to ground its tip into any shape other than a fat, unbalanced ball. The feed works, but would not hold the tremendous amount of ink in extreme conditions. The Lorelei does feature a similar rubber ring in its cheap-looking plastic thread, though.
But what reverse the competition here is the Lorelei’s choice of having a nib-feed combo similar to Pilot’s entry pens. This opens a whole new door for pen addicts to swap this lame factory nib out and try something else. In my case, I normally fit the Lorelei with an F nib from a Pilot Prera. The nib from Pilot needs some adjustment to get it properly fit with the feed, and when the swapping job is well done, BOOM, you have reconstructed the writing experience of a Pilot workhorse in a nice-looking pen. Besides, the agitator put into the converter of Lorelei helps the ink flow way more easily into the feed, and the plastic thread is also enabling it to be turned into an eyedropper filler (apply some silicone grease to the end plug, remember).
Let’s face the fact that Lorelei is a Procolor killer for pen addicts, especially after considering the price tags of both pens for three times in your heart. The Lorelei costs $5.4 inside China, while the Procolor 500 I put here cost me $50. If you buy this Lorelei from eBay resellers for $10 and spent $10 for a Pilot Plumix only to get its nib, you can have an extremely similar writing experience with only half of the cost. Mind you the time-cost for you to do this could be the same as buying a Sailor since only JetPens carries the Procolor 500 line in the U.S., with the blue demonstrator out of stock and a hefty $60 price tag for the remaining models. Think about it.
Beyond the specs and price gap…
The main problem I have revealed here is that, ironically, the Sailor pen seems just don’t care too much about promoting it’s Procolor 500 line in the U.S. market. Same story in China. So the story, in reality, went like this: while the ordinary consumers weren’t missing out too much on the Procolor 500 since they may probably hear more about Sailor’s 1911 or Professional Gear Slim lines, then a Chinese company called Lingmo sneaked in and copied the Procolor 500 with a better look, a similar quality, a Pilot-compatibility, and only asked for a fraction of the original cost.
It may sound creepy, but in today’s market consumers with the budget to buy one or two of the Procolor 500 as workhorse would certainly go something fancier. In my case, I got the chance to learn about the Procolor 500 line only after seeing the discussions built around the Lorelei. Is that really a bad thing for Sailor?
In a border perspective, this comparison review is not a battle of fates at all. What I am presenting here is only adding another example to the rule of economy and globalization. What Lingmo is doing is nothing different from what Sailor was doing when it wants to celebrate is anniversaries in the 80s—a relatively premium model called 1911 whose design language swerved pretty hard in the direction of a brand called Mont-Blanc, though with some Sailor’s tweaks.
Next time I may review some of the offerings from the PENBBS label if you like the style of this comparison. May you have a great New Year’s Eve and never crack a pen in the winter!
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(The following two review explained my take on Jinhao 992:)