Watts was born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and then at the Birmingham School of Art. Watts was familiar with the writings of John Ruskin and the work of the Pre-Raphaelites. His fidelity to nature and attempts to revive a sense of realism in landscape painting bear testimony to his adherence to the Ruskinian principles. Watts was fascinated by the play of light on leaves, bracken, lichen and rocks, and concentrated on the depiction of wooded landscapes in varying times of year and times of day. His work is imbued with a rare quality of light. It appears that Watts moved to Liverpool in 1874 as it was from a Liverpool address that he exhibited in Liverpool, London and his native town of Birmingham. From 1878 Watts exhibited at the Royal Academy and became a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Arts, the Birmingham Art Circle, the Liverpool Academy and the Royal Cambrian Academy in Wales.
Watts commanded much respect in Liverpool. At the time he was charging a significantly high price for his paintings, and the Liverpool Academy illustrated his work in their catalogues, an honour reserved for only a few. He also sent works to London, to the New Water-Colour Society, Suffolk Street Galleries and the Grosvenor Galleries.
A group of twenty watercolours by Watts were sold Christie's, London, 7 April 2000, lots 119-138 (sold £1,800-£15,500).