Raised in Grand Rapids, Watson attended University of Michigan for his Bachelors. After graduation, Watson taught German in a high school located in Greater New York for many years. He later returned to University of Michigan and earned his M.S. in botany. in 1918. He then remained in the university one more year to work as a teaching assistant. After moving back to Greater New York area, he worked at New York Botanical Garden for a year and then taught at Rutgers College for a year. In 1922, he entered the Graduate School of Michigan State College, and in 1926, completed his Ph.D. thesis on the genus Helianthus. Watson worked as a German instructor after receiving his Ph.D. After his sudden death at age 65, he was buried in Okemos, MI.