It was first published by Samuel Peacock as the Watford Observer, and General Advertiser for Watford, Bushey and Rickmansworth in 1863. For the first 17 years of its existence all or part of it was printed in London, until the printing operation was moved entirely to Watford in 1880. It absorbed several rivals early on: the Herts Leader in 1897; then three more in 1902 – at which point it became the West Herts and Watford Observer, Berkhamsted Times, Tring Telegraph and Chesham News. It dropped the three latter titles in 1959, and became simply the Watford Observer from 1997 onwards. It switched to tabloid format in 2004.
Since 1969 there’s also been a freesheet companion, founded as the Midweek Observer but now known as The Watford Free.
A small number of copies (about five per cent of the print run) are available as a free pickup.