KlÃ–ber GmbH makes the Cadillac of computer chairs. For a cool $3,000, you can pamper your body while earning your keep
Computer users are a heady -- as opposed to corporeal -- lot. They invest an inordinate amount of money in computer systems, software, accessories, customized keyboards, even mouse pads, yet skimp when it comes to the most crucial element in a high-functioning office: the chair. It's not unusual to see, perched in front of a $4,000 computer system with all the bells and whistles, a person sitting on a stool. "People spend money everywhere else, but they don't want to invest in the most important part of the office," says Sally Baron of The Decorating Solution, a decorating shop in Andover, Mass. "Yet the chair is as important as the computer."
KlÃ–ber GmbH couldn't agree more. That's why the German manufacturer of high-end office furniture has come up with the Cronos variation on the super-computer-chair theme: elegant combinations of leather, aluminum, and chrome rigged out with a highly sophisticated "synchronous" mechanism in the seat for adjustability and comfort. Sitting in the lap of ergonomic luxury, however, doesn't come cheap: Cronos chairs run from a low of $1,100 to a high of $3,000. They often cost more than the computer systems they're bought to complement.
So who buys them? Sold through high-end importers (the U.S. importer is Brayton International, in High Point, N.C., 910-434-4151), the chairs surface in the offices of everyone from executives to music engravers. "We target people who sit for long periods during the day," says export manager Wilfred Thamm, from Ã"berlingen, where KlÃ–ber has its headquarters. Apparently there are a lot of dedicated sitters out there: last year the company sold nearly 10,000 of the chairs.
What makes the chairs worth the cost, says Thamm, is the mechanism inside the seat. The standard Cronos chair adjusts according to both the weight and tilt of the user. The seat and the back are calibrated to move in a 1:2 ratio -- for every one degree the front of the seat tilts downward, the back of the chair tilts backward two degrees. That means that instead of simply rocking back, a person sitting in a Cronos remains on an even keel, thighs parallel to the floor, through every shift in body position. Contributing to the smooth ride is the chair's base, or pivot point. It's below the front of the seat -- not in the center, as in most office chairs -- which keeps the sitter's weight forward and feet firmly on the floor, relieving pressure on the back as the chair tilts. Sound like precision engineering? It is. And to make it all happen, the user barely has to lift a finger.
That's because the chair's functions are controlled by buttons on the side of the seat. And though all the features and mechanisms may sound like a lot of machine to be sitting on, the user's tender hindquarters are cushioned by two thick layers of cold foam and diolene fleece, molded to further reduce back tension. The chair back, too, is built to relieve tension: it sports a "lumbar curve" -- a protrusion that supports the lower back when the sitter leans forward.
"The more adjustable the chair, the more comfortable the sitter," says Decorating Solution's Baron. And in today's high-stress offices, an ounce of relaxation can mean a pound of productivity.* * *
Vladimir Edelman (email@example.com) is an editor for Inc. Online.