It comes as a surprise even in the digital age – but just half of 18 to 24-year-olds have no problem reading a traditional watch.
Staggeringly, more than a fifth of the age group – known as Generation Z – have a problem telling the time on an analogue watch.
And the slightly older generation fare little better, as one in five 25 to 34-year-olds admit they also find it difficult to tell the time on a watch with hands.
Watchmakers are suffering as more and more people use a digital device to tell the time
Meanwhile, just 4 per cent of those beyond the age of 55 have lost the ability to read a watch with big and little hands.
The YouGov survey, of more than 2000 people, raises the possibility that the smartphone generation could eventually lose the ability to read analogue clock faces.
The news will come as a huge blow to traditional watchmakers as their market continues to plummet each year.
Experts say that the rise of smartphones and smartwatches has left increasing amounts of young people unable to read traditional watches.
The research was commissioned by the Marloe Watch Company, a British wristwatch designer.
The firm said digital devices had become the ‘primary’ way for young people to tell the time.
Co-founder Oliver Goffe said: ‘Generation Zers are our future prime ministers, teachers and doctors. The fact they might not be able to tell the time if they can’t find a phone charger could be an issue.’