It would be a lie to say I knew nothing about Cleo Skribent before unboxing this pen. Several of my United Inkdom colleagues have written about the brand and a few well-known UK retailers now stock it. But, as with a few other brands that have recently garnered some attention — like Diplomat — Cleo has flown under the radar for decades.
Cleo is a German company and a cursory read of its website will leave you in no doubt that it’s extremely proud of its manufacturing quality. And this, the confusingly named ‘Skribent’, is Cleo’s flagship pen. At an RRP of around £300, that puts it squarely up against the Pelikan M800, although considerably short of the £490 Montblanc 146.
How does it stack up?
Well, at first glance it’s a very traditional black-resin-and-gold pen. In fact, it’s very gold. With the finials, bands, clips and so on, there’s gold everywhere.
Not to my taste, I admit. Luckily, it does come in a rhodium version and a couple of different plastic colours.
It’s also long, and slim, and tapered. Not at all like the squat Pelikan I’ve grown to love. I’m automatically dubious of thin pens.
But then you start to notice some very distinctive design choices. Like the curving clip.
And the transition from circular cap to squircular finial, which has the rather unusual Cleo logo in deco-esque inlaid enamel (or so it appears).
Maybe this pen is going to do something different after all.
Next you notice what looks like a blind cap or piston knob. A flagship German pen has to be a piston-filler, right?
Actually, no. It’s a cartridge-converter. Which I admit is a little disappointing, even if the converter is a well-made screw-in job.
It’s good to see brass threads between section and barrel, on both parts.
But the cap threads are plastic. This is not a bad thing, just worth pointing out. You’ll be pleased to hear that the cap takes just one and a bit turns to remove. They’re not the nicest threads I’ve ever used but they’re fine.
So what about the nib? It’s very small by flagship standards. The M800’s nib dwarfs it. It’s two-tone (hand-applied, apparently) 18k gold, and looks rather nice.
In the hand, the Skribent is actually really, really nice.
It may be narrow, with a small nib, but the section is long and wonderfully shaped, and there’s a ramp up to the cap threads that makes it very comfortable to hold. There’s a good bit of mass to the Skribent, but if that’s not enough, the cap posts deeply and securely. I rather liked the extra heft, even though I typically don’t post my pens.
I paired the Skribent with Birmingham Waterfront Dusk, and it proved to be a very successful combination.
The medium nib had good flow (this is a wet ink, like most Birmingham inks) and ran to the wider side of a European medium.
In everyday use, I found the Skribent a really expressive writer, with just a hair of feedback, and plenty of cushioning bounce. The nib flows without hesitation at any angle, even reversed. I could rattle through the pages with a feeling of speed and control. It’s really a great nib, and in my opinion feels better than the M800 series from Pelikan.
If you’re so inclined, there’s even a good bit of line variation on offer, although I wouldn’t recommend pushing the nib like this on a regular basis.
The killer question is: if you’re spending £300 on a pen, would you buy the Skribent, or another pen like the Pelikan M800? I’m disappointed that the Skribent is a converter-filler and personally I like my pens broader with a larger nib. The Pelikan has that larger nib, a metal piston-filler mechanism, and (sorry to say) at this point much greater brand recognition and prestige. For now, Cleo is a fairly unknown company, despite its 70+ years of history.
But, if Pelikans leave you cold, the Skribent has some distinctive design elements and is a great writer. You can’t argue with the performance, and it’s great to have another choice of 18k-nibbed, German-made craftsmanship on the market.
The Skribent is on loan to United Inkdom from Write Here.