After years of pen blogging, It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find brands that I haven’t tried. Sure, new brands come out occasionally, but it’s rare that I come across an established pen manufacturer with which I have little to no familiarity. When I visited New Orleans last month, I made sure to stop in at Papier Plume in the French Quarter, one of the few retailers of Cleo Skribent writing instruments in the United States. I ended up purchasing two pens: the Classic Palladium (piston filler version) and the Cleo Skribent Colour edition in burgundy.
About the Brand
Cleo Skribent is based in Bad Wilsnack, Germany, in the Prignitz region. Because the brand developed and emerged in East Germany prior to German reunification, Cleo writing instruments are less well-known in the United States and Western Europe, but have a storied reputation for quality in Eastern and Central Europe.
The Company now, of course, sells worldwide, and bills itself as “one of only a few companies to truly produce completely in Germany.” While they operate their own factory, it is unclear whether or not the Company manufactures all of its parts in house, or source components such as nibs from other German manufacturers like Bock and JoWo.
These pens are both solidly built. Let’s start with the Cleo Skribent Classic with Palladium trim. I chose this pen in white, with the piston filler and large clear ink window. The piston mechanism is accessed via a vintage-style removable blind cap. Cleo Skribent also makes a cartridge/converter model of the Classic, without the ink window and blind cap. One of the more remarkable things about this pen is the weight: even with a piston, the pen is feather-light. Hand fatigue will not be an issue, even if you're someone who needs your fountain pen to churn out pages of notes or schoolwork on a daily basis. The Classic could be your workhorse.
Made from brushed aluminum, the Cleo Skribent Colour is heftier than the Classic, though still light enough to be comfortable for long periods of writing. The clip and the section are both accented in burgundy, are very "grippy" for a metal pen, and the hand-enameled nib lends the pen a unique look. The friction-fit cap closes securely and, important for me, posts deeply - this pen is a better length posted than the Classic, though the Classic’s light weight more than offsets any awkwardness. The Colour uses a cartridge-converter filling system.
I’ve written in the past about how good steel nibs can be, and some of the German brands such as Cleo Skribent, Otto Hutt, Diplomat, Pelikan and Faber-Castell excel at both smoothness and reliability, even where the pen companies don’t manufacture the nibs themselves. The nibs on both of these pens are exceptionally smooth writers, with no scratchiness or flow issues that you sometimes see with stainless steel. I opted for a medium nib on the Classic and a Broad nib on the Colour, and while I'm happy with both, I found, somewhat to my surprise, that the two nibs wrote on the narrow side of their designations: the medium writes more like a western fine, and the broad writes more like a traditional medium.
While I found the nibs on these Cleo Skribent pens exceptional, my personal preference would be to have slightly less length and a bit more girth on the barrels. In other words, these pens are long and thin, and don't give those with larger hands much to grip. Again, that’s entirely a personal preference, and I must note that I could still use both pens comfortably for long periods of time.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
As I mentioned, I purchased both of these pens at Papier Plume in New Orleans, Louisiana. Papier Plume carries a wide variety of Cleo Skribent pens at various price points. Both pens sell for $110 as featured in this review. The Classic is available in a variety of other color and trim options, and the cartridge-converter model comes in slightly less expensive at $99. The Colour Series fountain pen is also available with aqua blue accents, in addition to the burgundy model.
At $110, I think these pens are a solid value. As others have done, I'd compare Cleo Skribent pens favorably to the Pelikan M200/M205 series, and Cleo Skribent sells at a lower price point. Whether or not you prefer Cleo or Pelikan nibs would be up to you. I would peg these pens as, overall, definitely better writers than something like a TWSBI. Overall, I'm impressed, and I'm excited to try one of Cleo Skribent's higher-end offerings at some point in the future.
Disclaimer: I purchased these pens with my own funds, for my own collection, and was not compensated for writing this review. This post does contain affiliate links.