If like me you are fans of the famous chairs of the Eames couple, you have certainly already asked the question: where to buy an Eames chair at the best price?
Beyond the question of choosing the shop, the real question is: what kind of Eames chair would you like to buy? If you answer this second question, the answer to the first one will come very easily. There are four main types of Eames chairs:
- 100% original chairs (with shell, base, shock mounts and vintage screws)
- Semi-original chairs (with antique shell and new base)
- Chairs reissued by Vitra in Europe and Herman Miller or Modernica in the USA
- Copies that are unofficial reproductions
Before going into the heart of the matter, if for you DAX, DAW, DAR, RAR, DSX, DSW, DSR … it’s gibberish, I propose a small revision with the image below which takes the models the most common (there are many more, you can find them on the excellent Eames Designs website )
The chairs Eames 100% original
A collector’s item very rare and expensive! On such a chair everything is vintage: the shell (fiberglass), the base, shock mounts, screws. The cheapest of all are the DSS and DSX that you will find from 150 €. For a DSW, the price varies from € 600 to € 900 depending on its condition (shell, base, shock mounts, label), its year and the rarity of its color. For a DAW it is necessary to count between 600 € and 1200 € for a very rare PAW (feet which pivot) Post Zenith edition between 1800 € and 3000 €. For a RAR the most iconic model the price will depend on the edition between 3500 € and 9000 € for a Zenith, between 3500 € and 6000 € for a Post Zenith between 900 € and 2000 € for a Herman Miller, and 800 €
To know the year of a chair it is necessary to refer to the label present under the shell.
All hulls are easy to date between 1954 and 1972, the ones that are found are generally from 60 to 70. In France they were distributed by Mobilier International who affixed its logo. The hulls of the 50s are easily differentiated, the design is slightly different and the fiber thickness is much greater.
1. Logo Zenith, the holy grail for all collectors. Produced from 1950 to 1952. Only these editions are particularly popular because they include the famous tower in Europe edge (hemp rope at the edges of the hull). No hull is the same because the manufacture is artisanal.
2. Post Zenith or Zenith 2nd generation. Produced only a few months from the year 1953, they have all the characteristics of the Zentih without the Europe edge. It is very rare to find them again with their label. The artisanal manufacturing process was soon abandoned for mass production no longer including large shock mounts, and the fiberglass is less and less present over the reissues Herman Miller.
3 & 4. Herman Miller classic with the logo molded in fiber produced from 1954 with often the label taking the patents. The logo molded in the fiber is a characteristic of the American hulls.
5. There are Herman Miller hulls that were also produced in Canada. The main feature: the Herman Miller typo which is different.
6. Herman Miller hulls produce in Europe. In addition to the label the chairs have the Herman Miller logo on the shock mounts.
7. From 1972 to 1989 Vitra published fiberglass chairs. Below is the label of a very rare 1972 version where Herman Miller produced the chairs and Vitra broadcast them. Then there were other logos (I do not have photos).
8. Then the latest productions of fiber chairs by Vitra (picture of a 1989 hull).
Because of its very high price (except for DSX and DSS), a 100% original chair is intended for collectors or design lovers … who do not count!
Advantages: collector’s item 100% original with a story
Disadvantage: very high prices, hard to find in good condition, very fragile for a Zenith edition
The semi-original Eames chairs
This type of chair certainly represents 95% of the market of the Eames “period” chair, it is the chair that is generally found in antique shops. This is an original shell (fiberglass) mounted on a new base (either directly with a base Vitra or Herman Miller, or a copy more or less happy). The shell usually comes from old DSX chairs, models prevalent at the time but whose legs are less popular than the famous Dowel (wooden legs) or Eiffel.
It can also be a DSS shell (very common since used in large numbers in classrooms, party halls …) but beware, the DSS of American origin have more muted shock mounts at the front and in the back, this assembly is called “wide” in opposition to the “narrow” assembly. The fact that the shock mounts are further apart makes that the general design of the chair will not be the same as for a “narrow” assembly. This difference may not be important for you but for a collector it is. At the time the “wide” hulls were only mounted on “scholastic” bases, a “wide” montage on a Dowel or Eiffel basis is therefore a heresy for a collector since it has never been marketed.
Also note that a shell without side armrest on a rocking chair base is a model that has never existed, but that is regularly found in antique shops …
The only models that have existed with a side chair on a rocker base is the RKR model (more often called Bikini) pictured below. A very rare 1951 model will cost almost as much as a Zenith.