Bic Criterium 2603 2.0mm leadholder

Bic Criterium 2603 2.0mm leadholder

The Criterium is a classic writing instrument, especially this aluminum version. In production for decades through various corporate ownership changes, this leadholder is a low cost well made writing implement that has the potential to last a lifetime. The official product page indicates the Criterium was launched in 1939.

Last year we saw the plastic 2613 version. The exteriors of the versions appear to have the identical shape and imprint – only the model numbers differ.

Bic Criterium 2603 2.0mm leadholder

Truly a classic, it officially has international distribution. Unfortunately, the reality is that it can be quite hard to find.

The grip reveals one difference between plastic and aluminum versions – the serrations of the aluminum version are much deeper. They are all made by ‘subtraction’ (removing pieces) from the hexagonal barrel, rather than ‘addition’ of a grip pattern.

Bic Criterium 2603 2.0mm leadholder

It does seem very lightweight to me, surprisingly so. I like it, but it has a much less substantial heft than I imagined. I would love to find an older model for comparison.

25 Replies to “Bic Criterium 2603 2.0mm leadholder”

  1. The black ones are available from As for the aluminum versions, I have only ever found them, in used condition, on ebay. The black ones are better than you might think, though. They are possibly the best leadholders still made today.

  2. Thank you for the comments. The aluminum leadholder was acquired with the assistance of a collector in France. I am not aware of any online vendor, but there would definitely be a market should someone choose to offer this classic item.

  3. Being French born I used them all my life.

    I moved to the U.S then went back to visit France 10 years ago where I was gifted a new Criterium in black.

    Best leadholder of all!

    Best bet for anyone outside EU is to contact a European vendor.

    Below the Criterium is Bic page

    U.S, N.Z, Australian, Japanese, Malaysian… lead holder’s enthusiasts best bet is to contact Bic corporation so that this very nice leadholder can be distributed worldwide.

    BIC Europe, Eastern Europe, Middle
    East & Africa & Asia

    Société BIC
    14 rue Jeanne d’Asnières
    92611 Clichy Cedex – FRANCE

    BIC North, South and Central America

    500 BIC Drive
    Milford CT 06460

  4. A bit of advocacy? I somehow don’t see Bic (at least in North America) being devoted to ultra-niche products. I could be wrong.

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  5. Thanks for making such a great blog!

    Bic has just bought 40% of the number 1 pen supplier in India.
    It looks like they want to expand their presence in Asia.

    We, in North America, might be out of luck getting our Criteriums but blog participants in Asia might have more of an opportunity.

    Thanks to you, I was able to locate a Staedler 2mm leadholder at a big box store to use as my everyday carry pencil. :)

  6. Well, I bought an aluminium Criterium 2603 and it won’t advance the lead! Any clues as to what the problem might be? The lack of heft (after my Staedtler 925 25) takes some getting used to, as does the grip, set about 5mm back from where my fingers instinctively want to be.

  7. Clutch leadholders don’t have an advance (or retraction) mechanism. You press the pushbutton, releasing the clutch (the three or four “jaws”) and allow the lead to fall out, manually controlling this as desired.

    The Staedtler 925 25 uses a completely different mechanism – it is a wide lead mechanical pencil.

  8. Um, yes, I realise the mechanism is different; I have a couple of clutch leadholders for 5mm leads. The Criterium would maybe benefit from using a slightly smaller diameter lead, as gravity simply won’t do its thing with 2mm. I know 1.8mm is a diameter which was widely used in the past, but any idea where it might be available these days?

    I mentioned the Staedtler only for the reason that it’s been my regular writing pencil, and I’ve gone and got used to the grip position and weight…….

  9. Sorry for misunderstanding – I’m not sure then. The one in the photos has not presented any problems for me. Depending on where you are, it may be a humid time of year, and it is possible that the tolerances of the Criterium mechanism and the leads are strained. Maybe someone else has some ideas?

  10. Easily done; it’s almost midnight here and I can see how my original post was abbreviated to the point of being garbled.

    BTW I see there are some Criterium leadholders for sale on “Expédition à l’international disponible”, although p+p is a little steep…..

  11. Hey I tired buying one off Amazon France and I couldn’t because of my location.
    I translated the French it said my USA address isn’t usable. So maybe I have the wrong listing I tried three of them though.

  12. Last time I posted there was definitely stock available for buyers outside France; I even went through checkout, without actually placing the order, to find out the p+p to the UK (if I remember correctly, it was something like EUR15, for a EUR7 pen!). However there are no sellers listed there tonight who will post beyond France and Monaco. It’s possible that the seller I saw the other night was posting to Europe but not the USA; sorry if I sent anyone on a wild goose chase!

  13. i just found a website that sells the aluminum product to the usa and ordered one recently (google it)
    i had been looking for someone that sells this pencils for 5 months but they either didnt ship to usa or the website page was outdated. I tried amazon france also but it didnt help, so if anyone is still interested in this pencil heres the direct link to the product Also they only accept paypal payments (no credit card or debit cards) but hurry there was only 7 left but i ordered one (birthday present!!!!) :D so theres 6 left in stock now

  14. Aloha’Auinala….
    If anyone should find this Post and is still interested in buying or trading some, let me know.
    I am an illustrator and leadholder collector myself (with a small collection), and it’s easy for me to get to BIC 2603 (Aluminium) and 2613 (Plastic) Models.
    Anyhow, the Design of the 2603 has changed since last year, it’s not as classical to me no more, but it’s in some ways improved, too.
    Aluminium and Plastic Barrel now are absolutely identical, the grip section is longer, the width a bit larger, the clip is absolutely fixed in position and can not slide any more and the push button / lead sharpener sits more tight now.
    Greetings from Old Europe.

  15. The easiest way to get either model is The French Amazon site is not in english, but the layout is exactly the same as ours when ordering…you can figure it out. The shipping is a bit more than the pencil itself, but I ordered the plastic one for $23.03 today. If you have an Amazon account, just sign in and order away. You can check what the shipping is before committing to the purchase.

  16. i have one of these are so cool because all body is make of aluminum.
    my pencil is about 32 years old, but I’m thinking buying the plastic version.

  17. My pencil is aluminium. It says Criterium 2603 France on it. When the clutch mechanism is not exrended, the grip begins 25mm (1 inch) from the end. The metal clip can slide up or down. The push mechanism is aluminium but with a white plastic section below. I am presuming that this is an earlier model. I cannot see any built in sharpener or erazer. Does anyone know when it may have been produced?

  18. I made a trip to Paris last week and bought an alluminium Bic Criterium 2630. It was not an easy task, though. I was lucky enough to find it in a little “papeterie” (stationery store) in Avenue des Maines. The thing is that the metal version is often confused with the metalized ABS plastic version. I went to several art suppliers and stationeries and, strangely enough, no one seemed to know the difference! But in the end I made it, with a bit of fortune. I’m not able to tell if the alluminium version was replaced by the plastic one or not.
    According to the Leadholder site the Criterium is kind of a living fossile, in production since 1939 and having changed hands two times over the decades. The only difference I see (judging by the photos) is the clip, which once was much more fancy (now it’s somewhat flat-looking to me).
    Personally I see many similarities with the Caran d’Ache fixpencil leadholders, from which this leadholder is clearly inspired. But the Criterium has very distinctive look, almost art dèco, due to its beautiful jagged grip.
    This leadholder is a nice addition to my working instruments, I’m happy I found it at last!

  19. Hello there! Is this a full aluminium body? I only found a plastic version rolled in some kind of aluminium foil. I don’t particularly like it. It is much different from my vintage Criteriums (I have both the black plastic version and the short aluminium one). Any idea if I can find this one presented here?

  20. Hey it’s been 10 years since your comment of the date is right, but I know what’s wrong :)) my vintage aluminium criterium (short version) has the same problem. It’s because of the inner tube that holds the lead, it has little give (too thin) and the lead just gets jammed there.

  21. Update…. it’s not the size of the inner tube, the lead is not advancing because the part with the claws that hold the lead is a bit misaligned. This can be easily fixed with a gentle hand. I just fixed mine :)

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