Eight Bells: Bruce Blackman

Published on April 3rd, 2016

Bruce Blackman, one of the nation’s few horologists, died March 26 at his home after a brief illness in Newport Beach, CA. He would have been 87 in May.

Blackman was born in Altadena, CA, and as a youth discovered his life’s passion while working after school for a local clockmaker. This led to an horology degree from Bradley University, winning a national clock design contest for chronometers, and enjoying a life of fulfillment being Newport’s “family jeweler.” After studying business at USC and working for several of LA’s finest trade stores, he set up Blackman Ltd. in 1957 serving the maritime community repairing chronometers, barometers and compasses; then later adding fine jewelry and gifts from many European sources.

Throughout his more than 70 years in business, he was well known for his generous spirit, genuine smile, and twinkle in his eyes. He and his wife of 50 years, Trish, traveled extensively, making friendships across the globe.

A lifetime competitive sailor and member of Newport Harbor Yacht Club, Blackman very much enjoyed the camaraderie and freedom of being at sea, and indeed it was at the end of the 1963 Transpac Race that he met Trish.

Blackman was a veteran of nine Transpacs winning aboard Nalu II in 1959, many Mexican races, one Bermuda race, several big boat series, years of racing Star Boats and Snipes with Bill Ficker, Phil Ramser, and Barton Beek and sailing Lehman 12’s with his wife and children. Chances are, if you won a race in SoCal in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, Blackman engraved the trophy, and if you had your Rolex watch or Chelsea ship’s clock serviced, he did the work. While he sailed on some of the finest racers of his day, it was the people that were most important to him. Aboard, Blackman often cooked gourmet meals for the crew to their delight.

He loved cannons and never passed up the opportunity to offer a proper salute. The report of his legendary “Old Blitzer” often capped the start of festivities to numerous races, kite flying contests and weddings.

Whether working at Blackman Ltd., sailing across the Pacific, diving for buried treasure, tagging sea birds and seals for research, hunting quail in Mexico, tending to his Bonsai Trees, creating a feast for his friends or golfing at Santa Ana Country Club, Blackman made the most of each experience and relationship. His passing occurred only a short time after returning with his wife from a final trip to Bangkok and Hong Kong.

In addition to Trish, Bruce is survived by 4 children and 5 grandchildren. Son David continues his legacy at Blackman Ltd.

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