Exploring the Wing Sung 626, a recent Chinese clone of the Sheaffer Balance II.
A few months ago, I was browsing through some fountain pen groups when I came across what I thought was a pink Balance II. Upon reading, I learned that this was in fact a Wing Sung 626, a remarkably similar looking pen.
So, I went to eBay, found the Wing Sung 626, and ordered one. Two weeks later, my Blue Celluloid Wing Sung 626 fountain pen was here.
While the Wing Sung 626 is similar to the Balance II, once you have them together you can start to see the differences. Most obvious, is the gold dot on the Wing Sung 626. It appears that the first batches of the 626 had a white dot, but the newer one I have does not. I assume that Wing Sung changed this to avoid trademark infringement of Sheaffer’s classic white dot.
In addition to the dot, another difference is the name Wing Sung (rather than Sheaffer’s) appears on the 626’s clip. This seems like an obvious choice for Wing Sung. The third and final obvious difference is that the 626 is a bit shorter than the Balance II.
Taking the caps off
When you remove the 626 and Balance cap, the similarities start to fade. To start, the Balance uses a black section, while the 626 has a section matching the cap and barrel (in my case, “Blue Celluloid”). The nibs are also a big difference. The Wing Sung nib is longer and narrower when compared to the Sheaffer nib. Perhaps more importantly, the 626 features a gold-plated steel two tone nib while the Balance features a 18k two tone nib. The engraving on both nibs features the logos of their respective companies. The 626 features the nib grade engraved on the nib, while the Balance has its nib grade on the back of the section (which often wears away). Additionally, the converters of the pens are quite different, but each do use a piston style converter. The converters are not interchangeable.
As would be expected, the significantly cheaper Wing Sung 626 has less elegant packaging than the Sheaffer Balance II. The Balance came in a red clamshell style box with a soft fabric insert securing the pen. The 626 comes in a black cardboard box, with a black cardboard piece holding the pen. Both pens come with a Use & Care Guide, however the 626’s is only in Chinese. In contrast, the Balance Use & Care Guide is in 8 languages. In the Wing Sung box, the pen comes with a converter preinstalled. This is the same for the Sheaffer box, but the Sheaffer box also included 2 ink cartridges.
Wing Sung Blue Celluloid vs Sheaffer Cobalt Glow Acrylic
The Wing Sung Blue Celluloid is an awfully close match the Sheaffer Cobalt Glow Acrylic, as shown in the photos. While Wing Sung’s other colors are not as similar, I choose the Blue Celluloid to show how similar these two pens got in color. The color of the pen is probably as close as you can get without using the exact same material. However, the Cobalt Glow is a bit brighter than the Blue Celluloid.
The Wing Sung 626 really impressed me in this field. For my comparison, I used a the Sheaffer 18k Extra fine nib. The Wing Sung is using a fine steel nib. Both are filled with J. Herbin Bleu Ocean and one Clairefontaine 90 gram paper. The Balance II is pretty smooth, with a bit of light scratchiness here and there as it is an extra fine nib. The Wing Sung is not scratchy at all and lays down a wetter line than the Balance II, although this could be from the broader nib. I have all but a fine nib for the Balance II, and I felt the medium was an unfair comparison. The Wing Sung nib impressed me as it had no issues, and I had assumed I may have to smooth it to be a good writer.
- The 626 requires about 3 turns to unscrew the cap, while the Balance only requires about 1 and ½ turns.
- The Balance’s cap bands are flat while the 626’s cap bands are slightly curved
- The Balance has a metal insert in the barrel while the 626 does not.
- Excluding the converters, the Balance weights 17g while the 626 weights 16g
The area of price is where the Wing Sung 626 really shines. On eBay, the Wing Sung 626 sells for $29.50 with $2.00 shipping. With tax, my total was $33.07. The Sheaffer Balance II had an original MSRP of $175 ($99 for the Classic colors with 14k nibs) in 1998. Adjusted for inflation, the Balance II would cost you $277.65 (or $157.07) in 2020. However, it is important to note that the Balance II can often be bought for $150-$200 on eBay and is a discontinued product.
While the Wing Sung 626 doesn’t have the same quality packaging or feel, it is a very good writer and pushes the Balance II in terms of value. So, should you buy a Wing Sung 626?
The Wing Sung 626 is a good value and could be a good contender to see if you like the feel of the Balance shape without having to pay the Balance price. Some may say the fact that the Wing Sung 626 is a Balance II clone should be a reason not to buy. If Sheaffer was manufacturing the Balance II today, I would agree and not recommend the Wing Sung 626. But, since Sheaffer hasn’t made the Balance II for over 15 years I do not believe that Wing Sung is taking any of Sheaffer’s sales with this pen. Furthermore, I don’t believe that Sheaffer’s current offerings are very good. The Wing Sung 626 is a light plastic pen that has no competitor from Sheaffer. I would recommend the Wing Sung 626 as a good, new, budget-friendly, Balance style pen.
Excellent, thorough & fair comparison / contrast of the two, Nathaniel.
This is very interesting article. Those are very beautiful writing instruments. I inspected them from the beginning to the finish of that design. I worked at “Sheaffer’s” as quality inspector for twenty-seven years.
Ive seen a lot pens, ballpoints, markers, pencils, and rolling balls instruments. I am happy that you volunteer at the museum here in Fort Madison. Thank you.
Wing Sung had produced Sheaffer since 1990s-2004. Before 1956, one of the predecessors of Wing Sung had produce sheaffer-style fountain pens.
When 626 was planned, we had not suggested 626 used white spot but the planner thought it was a good idea and the boss of Gelin, which got 6 series’ and 101’s license from Hero Industry thought it was good, too.