They were manufactured by hand chiefly out of aluminium or black fibreglass and made to resemble a human skeleton. The chairs were initially designed for an unproduced movie version of the 1965 Frank Herbert science fiction novel Dune that was to be directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky in the 1970s. Their name comes from Baron Harkonnen, the villain of Herbert’s novel.
The series consisted of a regular chair and a more elaborate Capo chair intended to be used as Baron Harkonnen’s main chair. The most prominent feature of the Capo chair is a crown of three noseless skulls stacked on top of each other in a column above the back of the chair. This feature is what distinguishes the Capo chair from regular Harkonnen chairs, which lack the triple skull crown as well as armrests. HR Giger sold replicas for $30,000 (fibreglass) to $50,000 (aluminium). Versions of the regular Harkonnen chairs are in use at the two Swiss Giger Bar locations.