From everything I've seen, $1K is a great minimum if you don't want to replace it within 5 years max.
Edit: with the possible exception of DXRacer and similar. I don't have enough info to be firm on that, but I suspect at least some of them are much better than the similarly priced non-gaming oriented competition.
I'm looking for a chair as well. Definitely an annoying thing to shop for as, like you mentioned, many times you arent able to even sit in the product before you purchase it when buying from some manufacturers.
I found this article when doing some quick research, but other than the obvious Herman Miller chairs, I'm pretty lost at the moment.
Well sorry to disappoint, ended up getting a chair supposedly on sale from $150 to $100, I'll see if I can find a link in a bit. It was pretty comfy though, only thing it can't do is directly recline, but alas it seemed like a pretty decent deal, leather as well with pretty firm padding. Though I'll be throwing a blanket over it naturally.
The only real issue would be assigning grades for feel and comfort when those characteristics are so personalized to individuals, but I guess they could come up with some sort of comfort index like they have in car reviews. It could be like Alex on Auto's "trunk comfort index" :D