Recently, I came across an ad in an old design magazine that really caught my attention. Not only because of the naked models, but also because I love all things Navy since my teenage son enlisted last year. So I was intrigued and inspired to learn more about one of the most iconic chairs in history.
The original Navy Chair was designed in the early 40′s in the basement of Emeco founder Wilton Dinges. The US Navy had tasked Dinges with designing a chair that was non-magnetic, lightweight, and durable enough for its submarines and boats. These chairs had to be virtually indestructible to be able to withstand water, salt, and sailors.
The 10-06 (pronounced ten-O-six) Navy Chair was born. Legend has it that the design of the seat was actually shaped after Betty Grables’ bottom. Handmade through a 77-step process by Emeco in Hanover, Pennsylvania, this lightweight, practical and eco-friendly chair has certainly endured the test of time.
For decades, the Navy Chair supplied the needs of the military, government, schools, hospitals and prisons with great success. But that’s not the end of the story; Emeco received worldwide accolades after a chance meeting in 1999 between owner Gregg Buchbinder and designer Phillip Starck. Their collaboration is what really put these chairs on the style map. Soon Navy Chairs were featured worldwide and seen in famous hotels, movies, television shows, retail stores, and everywhere from Disneyland to McDonalds. One of the most famous cameos of this chair was in the Britney Spears music video “Stronger.”
The Navy Chair is made of 80% recycled aluminum, which made Emeco “green” long before it was popular. People were only further drawn to Emeco when the sustainable movement kicked in. In 2006, Emeco partnered with Coco Cola and made a version of the Navy chair out of 111 recycled plastic Coke bottles. The aptly named 111 Navy Chair was launched in Milan in 2010. It will be hard for the 111 Chair to outlast the original aluminum Navy Chair’s 60+year run. It’s amazing how such a simple design has lasted the test of time; and Emeco guarantees the chair for the life of the original owner.
The newest version comes in a variety of colors; proving they will always have a place in this designers heart (much like my Sailor.)
Thank you for your service!
Written by Patricia Lockwood, member of the DESERT DESIGN AUTHORITY