Australia made two changes coming into the final Test with all-rounder James Faulkner making his debut and left-arm quick Mitchell Starc returning at the expense of No. 3 Usman Khawaja and right-arm paceman Jackson Bird.
England also made changes having the Ashes wrapped up with a three-nil lead with left-arm spinner Simon Kerrigan and all-rounder Chris Woakes coming in to replace Tim Bresnan and Jonny Bairstow.
Australian captain Michael Clarke won the toss and elected to bat first, and after losing David Warner early, the tourists were on top for the rest of the day finishing play on 4-307 with Steve Smith not out on 66 and nightwatchman Peter Siddle on 18.
It was Watson who was the star of the day though. The 32-year-old came in at No. 3 in just the fifth over after Warner was out, and immediately took the attack to the English bowlers scoring at a tremendous rate.
He brought up his half-century from just 61 balls and ensured that English debutant spinner Kerrigan didn’t settle taking him for 28 off his first two overs, and in the end he scored 35 off 25 balls faced against him including four boundaries.
As he entered the 90s, Watson misjudged a short ball and was hit on the neck by Stuart Broad on 91, but he soon recovered and was able to bring up just the third century of 46-match Test career in style.
Watson's last Test ton came against India in October 2010 so it had been 47 innings and 24 matches since, but this will be remembered as the finest innings in white clothing for his country to date and his highest score came to an end on 176 just before stumps.
His 176 came from 247 balls with 25 boundaries and a six off Graeme Swann, and it included a life when he was on 104 when dropped by Alastair Cook Cook at first slip off James Anderson with the score 3-151. He also had success with a DRS review being upheld when he was already beyond 150.
Despite it being a flat pitch at The Oval, Warner could not get himself in against Broad and Anderson, and was gone for just six when caught behind by Matt Prior off Anderson.
Australia's score was 1-11 then but Watson came in and pushed the initiative the tourists' way. While Watson was on fire, Rogers was playing cautiously at the other end.
However, he still managed to be there with Watson at lunch with the score 1-112 but Rogers was out for 23 from 100 deliveries shortly after with a soft dismissal when he edged Swann to Jonathan Trott at first slip.
Clarke then joined Watson at the crease and the Australian skipper never looked at ease particularly against the bowling of Broad and even more so his short-pitch bowling.
While Broad did the hard work setting him up, it was Anderson that claimed his scalp bowling him for just seven with Australia's score then 3-144.
Smith then joined Watson and the pair took the Australians to 3-183 by lunch with Watson having brought up his century in the middle session.
Watson continued on his merry way in the final session easily passing 150 and looking the most in control and dominant at the crease that he ever has for a prolonged period in his Test career.
However, he fell victim to the second new ball late in the day when he was caught by Kevin Pietersen off Broad.
Australia was then 4-289 with Siddle striding to the wicket to join Smith who in the meantime had brought up his third half-century of the series.
Siddle was protecting Brad Haddin and Faulkner in the batting order, and made same quick runs moving to 18 not out by stumps with Smith not out at the close of play also on 66.
It wasn’t a great day for England's bowlers with Anderson finishing with 2-52 from 18 overs, Broad 1-73 from 19, Swann 1-71 from 30, Woakes 0-52 from 15 and Kerrigan 0-53 from eight.