J. Alfred Watts was employed in the Surveyor-General's office of Natal Colony in the eighteen-fifties. He compiled the first reasonably accurate map of Natal in 1855, on a scale of six miles to the inch (1:380 160). It showed rivers, roads, settlements, missions, farms (including their size and the names of their owners), and the areas occupied by African chiefs and their people, and was based mainly on the surveys that had been carried out by the Surveyor-General and his staff during the previous ten years. The map is now in the Local History Museum, Durban.
Watts was declared insolvent in 1863. At the time of his death in 1874 he resided in the Orange Free State (now the Free State).