The history of the Navy chair is one of the most surprising and ingenious I know. During the Second World War, the American Navy encountered a problem with the chairs they had on board, as the usually ended up destroyed by the rough sailors after months of being at sea. They urgently needed chairs as robust as they are lightweight, not magnetic, immune to the rust produced by sea salt, and also fire-resistant. Mission almost impossible. In the forties, Wilton C. Dinges of Emeco worked with a navy admiral on the production of these chairs made from recycled aluminum and in the development of an extraordinary 77-step process, which combined with the craftsmanship, makes the chairs indestructible, with 150-year guarantee.
Gregg Buchbinder, whose father had bought the factory in the seventies and then passed into his hands, one day while in New York presenting a new chair he had made with Philippe Starck he met Sir Terence Conran. As he told me, Conran told him an unexpected and mind-boggling story: the curved seat of the 1006 chair (also called the Navy) had an exceptional anatomical mold, no less than Betty Grable’s backside! According to him, the most famous pin-up of the forties had lent her backside to give shape to the seat. Stunned by such as story, Gregg immediately called his oldest employee, Davey Lake, who worked in the factory all his life and who confirmed the rumor was spread at the time and was a way of encouraging sailors to treat their chairs with more affection. What makes one dream!