Tuesday, July 23, 2013

New Release - Hero Summer Safari Fountain Pens

Edit: The official name of the pen seems to be Hero 359,  "Summer Safari" is just a name which a particular seller (the same seller who commissioned the Lishui branch of Hero company to clone the pen) made up, to attract people (then it was changed to "Summer Color"). 

The day pen addicts have been waiting for (more like dreading) is finally here - Hero now has its clone on Lamy Safari and it's called Summer Safari (They are not even trying, are they?).
 Admittedly, I always wondered why there wasn't some kind of cheaper copy of Safari, from the People's Republic of Counterfeit (I mean, there is even Obama's Fried Chicken). Here comes the answer to my question...By the way, these promo pictures were posted on Penbbs.com (like a Chinese version of FPN but you need to register to see the pictures). 
The Hero Summer Safari come in five shades: Shiny Black, Apple Green, Bright Yellow, Royal Blue and Mauve-Purple (Damn, it beat Lamy to it...). Instead of having the cross on the cap, the Hero pen has that flower-shaped hero logo.
 Each pen comes with a plastic box, a converter (Z26 clone) and as a new-release perk (for the first batch or first few hundreds order), a pact of black cartridges is also included. The pen is priced at 58.8 RMB (a little under $10 US) is only one seller on Taobao that sells it though.
Close-up of the bright yellow one. So far, most of (more than half) Chinese's reaction has been pretty negative. One member 冻冰坨 even commented jokingly : "Hero's upcoming release: Autumn Al-star, Winter 2000 and Spring Studio...."
Some supermarket version of the pen (so some people guess the price could be even lower than the 58.8 RMB. Super markets in Chinese all tend to carry stationery and book, they just don't sell "expensive" ones). The labels only call it "posture-correcting iridium point pen" so I suppose "Summer Safari" was made up by some seller?
So, what do you think about the release (I don't blame you if you are disgusted)? I kind of wonder how usable it can be (we all know how Hero's quality control goes) and...I think I want to buy the converters (I just think Lamy converters are way too expensive).  

Update: More info about the pen, summarized from reviews on Penbbs ( review 1 / review 2)

1.The store (supermarket) price of these are around 20-30 RMB
2. Quality control is pretty lousy and the plastic body seems cheap
3. It only takes standard international cartridges and converter
4. No groove on the grip to secure the plastic protrusion on converter
5. The edges of the pen are noticeably less sharp compared to Safari
6. Nib has the logo etched on (not tinted black) and only comes in M.
It's hard to yank off (but it's possible that it can be swapped with lamy ones)
7. The feed is thinner and somewhat hourglass-shaped (not that triangular)
8.The barrel is only flat on one side (where the logo) round on the other
9. There is no "China" on the bottom of the barrel
10. The nib (0.7mm) wasn't a bad writer at all

Overall: So far, the pensbbs members don't think it's worth the price.


  1. I get the impression that Chinese companies tend to look at a successful product as something that defines a sort of market segment, then they compete by offering similar looking products to make a genericized "product class", not in order to defraud the consumer with a counterfeit, but more as an attempt to compete within a "product class" that already resonates with consumers. Chinese pen manufacturers even copy each other's logos. I've noticed one instance that's particularly strange: Korean company Dong-A make the Fine-Tech that looks similar to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C. The Fine-Tech is apparently very successful in Asia, so there's a nearly identical looking competing product called the GiLiFa Fine-Tech. It's some weird simulacrum of simulacrum.

    I guess in the broadest terms, Western companies often try to compete by differentiating, while Chinese companies try to compete, at least sometimes, by assimilating.

    1. Well, I think it's a nice (and considerate) way you put it. For me it just seems that since Chinese are not encouraged to innovate (it starts in school, where everything has a standard answer, even when it comes to composition...Sticking to a "formula" means good grades while being daring/innovative might earn you a zero)and that the current view on copyright is so loose. If they can get successful by copying tried-and-true, why bother coming up with new thing anyway?

      I don't necessarily hate this particular business model(sometime it , I just dislike it when all they do is cloning (in the case of this Hero pen), without adding and personalized modification to better suit the consumers.

      Anyway, I heard on Penbbs that the reason behind the whole cloning project has little thing to do with how companies are marketing themselves. It was more like a revenge (not against Lamy, but Lamy's Chinese distributor, who mark up the product several times its normal retail, into some sort of luxury good).

      A while back, the official distributor got jealous of several Taobao vendors (who sell parallel import at the same price point as the European retail)so they sued one of the biggest T-mall (Taobao's mall version) sellers. The court ordered the seller to pay a 170,000RMB fine, which seems a little ridiculous since all the Lamy products from the said seller were legitimate. Not to mention it was just a distributor of Lamy (not Lamy's legal representative in China).

      Out of revenge, said seller later commissioned Lishui Branch of Hero company (a separate factory that manufactures and sell under the Hero's name)to clone the Safari, without Hero's headquarter knowing. It's like saying: "If you said I can't sell Lamy, I guess I will sell some Hero pens instead."

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