Alexander was born on April 5th 1802 at St Nicholas, Aberdeen, the eldest son of James and Jean. He was married twice, firstly on 5th May 1843 to Mary Gray, by whom he had three sons:
After Mary's death Alexander married her sister Jessie, on the 20th August 1849. They had ten children, only five of whom grew to adulthood:
Alexander is known to have had a daughter, Isabella, presumed to be illegitimate, whose burial aged five on September 24th 1846 was recorded in the Old Machar parish register. He was also the father of John Alexander Watkins, who was born around 1844-46, and whose mother is unknown.
Alexander was a highly successful linen manufacturer. Originally a manager at Broadford Works in Maberly Street (which continued to operate as Richards Ltd until 2004), he formed his own business, Watkins & Co., when he bought Sutherland's Wool Factory at Canal Road, Old Aberdeen. After he retired two of his sons, Frederic and Edward, ran a woollen factory, F.H.G.Watkins & Company, at the Canal Road works from 1864 until August 1868, when they were declared bankrupt.
In 1853 Alexander built a new home for his family at Primrosehill in Old Aberdeen but this house was sold in 1866 (probably because of the financial difficulties of F.H.G.Watkins & Company). Alexander's last home was Rose Cottage in Orchard Lane, which in Post Office directories for the period 1869 to 1871 was shown as the residence of John A. Watkins, flesher (i.e. butcher) of 107 George Street.
Alexander died on March 10th 1873 at Rose Cottage, and was buried in St Peter's Cemetery. After his death his widow, Jessie, and all his surviving children except George left Aberdeen. Primrosehill still stands and is now a community centre for nursery children and after school activities.